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“Bridge to Ridge” Gives Middle Schoolers an Intimate Look at High School

Bridge to Ridge program

March 28, 2023 -- Longer hallways, more people, and more responsibility are daunting to anyone, including eighth graders walking into Walnut Ridge for the first time. That’s why leaders at the high school allowed them time to take in the changes through a “Bridge to Ridge” initiative. 

“Bridge to Ridge” allows eighth-grade students from Region 2 to visit Walnut Ridge High School and talk with seniors and others about what to expect when entering high school. 

“This is a day in the life of what it is to be a Walnut Ridge student,” said Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Coordinator Diona Ross. “A lot of times when the ninth graders come into the building the first day, they’re overwhelmed. We wanted to give them a day of what it looks like to be a high school student before they actually come to our building for learning.”

Groups of Johnson Park Middle School students visited the high school on different days throughout the winter and spring months. J’un Camara said it was his first time visiting the school.

Bridge to Ridge program“I like the people and the feel of the school. Everyone here seems relaxed, and there’s no hostility in the air. The teachers are nice and seem like they just want the best for you,” he said.

Camara followed two senior students throughout the school to learn his way around campus, how class periods work, and the expectations for students.  

“They really just told me what I should do when I get here. They explained how freshman year is one of the most important years of my life and to make sure to always give effort and do the homework because it will help us in the long run,” Camara said.

Among the seniors sharing advice with the soon-to-be high schoolers was Kieara White, a senior and student council member at Walnut Ridge.

“I was just trying to give them insight into what Walnut Ridge is about. I want to show them that Ridge is not a bad place, you’re going to come here, you're going to learn things, and you’re going to see different people from different walks of life. We want to show people that at the end of the day, you’re going to be great. Some people enter this school in bad situations and learn so much. This school taught me so many life lessons,” White said.

As she approaches the end of her senior year, White said she remembers being intimidated by high school when she first walked into the building. Now, she plans on attending Columbus State, taking advantage of the Columbus Promise scholarship, and entering the Phlebotomy program. 

“It’s one of those jobs that never goes out of fashion, and it can never be replaced,” she said.

White shared her goals with the eighth graders so they could understand how teachers, I Know I Can advisors, counselors, and others can help them throughout their high school careers.

Ross wanted seniors to share their experiences with the younger students. She said the program has taken place during the summer in past years when students and staff members are out for summer break. This time, high school prospects are getting to ask questions that could lead to success. 

“I think they’re enjoying it. I just hope they’re actually taking in the experience so when they’re a high schooler, they can be like, ‘Ok, I’m ready for this,’” Ross said.

This is the first year Walnut Ridge is making the school available to middle schoolers, and Ross hopes to expand the program to all middle school students in Region 2 next year.

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