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Senior volunteers go over school chants with a group of freshmen Aug. 27 at Papillion-La Vista High School during the Freshman Survival program session.

Longer stretches of hallways filled with new faces can be intimidating to freshman, which is why Monarch seniors do what they can to make them feel more at home.

Through the Freshman Survival program, Papillion-La Vista High School seniors help freshmen get accustomed to life as high school students.

PLV launched the program about 20 years ago and it’s still going strong today.

“The Freshman Survival program is an excellent transition piece,” said Karleen Gebhardt, an English teacher at PLV. “Sometimes that transition can be hard.”

For the first nine weeks of school, a group of five to seven seniors go to their assigned freshman classes to lead a freshman survival course.

Twice a week, the seniors spend about 30 minutes speaking to freshmen classes on topics such as homework load, study habits, how to get involved in school activities, where to seek help and how to show school spirit.

“It’s a critical time. It’s a really nice way for them to feel more comfortable,” Gebhardt said.

Freshman Survival also helps break the communication barrier between lower and upperclassmen.

“These seniors were once in their very same position. That’s really important for them to see,” Gebhardt said. “It allows them to take some social risks and talk to people they wouldn’t normally talk to.”

The freshmen, however, aren’t the only ones reaping benefits from the program, Gebhardt said.

By assisting freshmen, seniors are able to develop skills in leadership and public speaking.

“It allows them to really practice, build and showcase their leadership skills,” Gebhardt said.

It can also help boost their confidence, she said.

“It helps with all those skills that we want to see our students graduate with,” Gebhardt said. “They can impart wisdom and share their experiences and it reinforces all the wonderful things they have learned.”

Alyssa Berger, a PLV senior, said she is happy to help freshmen through the program.

“I remember what it was like when I was a freshman and how seniors would come talk to us,” she said. “I wanted to help.”

In the next few weeks, Berger said her group is planning to have a food day and play games to break the freshmen out of their shells.

“It feel like I’m making a difference for freshmen and getting them adjusted to high school,” Berger said.

Her main goal, Berger said, is ensuring freshmen have the support they need in order to have a successful high school career.

“They know seniors are there for them and can help them out,” she said. “I think that helps them a lot.”

Though it sometimes takes awhile for freshmen to open up, Gebhardt said she can see the program makes a difference.

“I have seen a positive change,” she said. “They open up earlier and aren’t afraid to ask for help and not be embarrassed to do so.”

The Freshman Survival program is a Monarch tradition Gebhardt said she hopes never goes away.

“The freshmen walk away with something positive, the seniors walk away with a positive experience and I hope it continues,” she said.

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