By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — They are the new kids, making friends and finding their way around.
Alexis Ferreira, now officially a Pinkerton freshman, was thinking about her first day of high school. She was hoping to spend time with her middle school friends and also making new ones.
She was among hundreds of incoming freshman at Pinkerton Academy who spent a day last week getting to know each other and finding their way around the high school campus, part of the school’s eighth annual Freshmen Field Day.
Administrators, student volunteers and other staff members gathered at the Derry high school to help members of the Class of 2017 become acclimated to their new campus.
Danville-based organization Adventurelore has been facilitating team-building and self-esteem exercises at the field day events for several years.
For Alexis, it was time to learn the ropes.
“Being a new freshman, it’s hard,” she said.
The 14-year-old attended Gilbert H. Hood Middle School. She had lunch with a former classmate, Haley Ferrell, 14, after taking a campus tour and getting student identification photos taken.
For the expected 700-plus new ninth-graders this year, it was a day spent preparing to hit the campus running once high school opens later this month.
The event was moved in to the Hackler Gym, due to the forecast.
It’s not mandatory, but attendance is always strong.
By the end of the third of four sessions, nearly 450 students were involved.
“The school promotes it really well,” Derry district high school coordinator Rich Flagg said. “It takes a little edge off.”
Student Council members and class officers also pitch in, Flagg said, to help new students find their bearings.
William Lonergan, Pinkerton’s associate dean of students, has spearheaded the freshman event since the start along with other administrators and class advisors.
After eight years, the success shows.
“When you first see (the freshmen arrive) they are smiling, they see their friends,” Lonergan said. “I ask them, ‘Are you nervous?’ and they say ‘A little bit.’”
Once they get involved in the day’s activities, Lonergan said, their comfort level grows.
“It’s good for them to come in and get a sense of the campus,” he said, “without everyone else being here.”
Lonergan said sometimes parents linger a while after dropping of their child to watch the activities. Students from smaller towns like Chester are eager to jump right into the Pinkerton crowd.
“They are psyched to get into this place and meet new people,” he said.
For Alexis, she looks forward to getting involved in photography once school begins. Haley hopes to try out for volleyball.
Both girls said it was a good thing to come to the field day and learn all they could about Pinkerton before hitting the books.
“It’s good to know where everything is,” Alexis said.
Freshmen also get another day all to themselves when they begin school on Aug. 27. All other Pinkerton students will return to class the following day.