After nearly nine years of being a student, JD Schroeder suddenly found herself as the new kid this year at Eppler Junior High School.
“I was worried about finding new friends, but I have made quite a few new ones,” the 9th grader, who had transferred this year from an Oakland County district, said recently. “I really like Eppler – how organized the school is and how the teachers treat the kids.”
Schroeder was among 32 students who took part in the “New Student Mixer” event Eppler counselors put together for students new to both their school and Utica Community Schools. Counselors were able to see how the year was starting for them in a low-stress environment that featured cider, donuts, and ice breakers.
“We are letting them know they are not alone,” said counselor Autumn Brinich-Blanchard. “We also want to do a temperature check with them to see where they are at, how things are going, what can we improve on, what may be some of their struggles.”
In one activity, the new students tossed a beach ball back and forth that contained a series of questions. The person who caught the ball had to answer the question where their thumb landed – such as their favorite movie or where they went on vacation this summer.
“We want to create for them a sense of belonging,” said counselor April Raupp. “They are not alone. We just want them to understand that we are here to support them in any way that is needed.”
The “New Student Mixer” was among several activities Eppler has started to support wellness for all students. Other activities include “Wellness Wednesdays” and a recent “Kindness Matters” week.
For new student Eli Nightingale, the activities and the support from the Eppler staff are allowing him to get into a routine after transferring from a virtual hybrid school where he attended two days a week.
“I can really find myself getting into a good groove,” he said. “I like it here – everyone is really nice.”