NEWARK – Ashley Nice knows what it feels like to be the new kid in school.
She transferred from Heath to Newark High School her freshman year, and it wasn’t easy. It took time before people wanted to get to know her or even just say hello.
Now, the 16-year-old sophomore is helping other new students feel more welcomed at the school. Nice is a member of the Friends of Rachel Club at Newark High School, which is dedicated to promoting positivity and inclusion at the school.
“Usually new students just sit there and don’t really talk, and not a lot of people interact with them. It’s nice to be able to make them feel welcome,” she said.
On Thursday, the club hosted a breakfast for new students during which members talked to students about how things were going, asked them what classes they were taking and encouraged them to get involved in extracurricular activities.
Scott Koebel, school counselor and adviser of FOR Club, got the idea for the breakfast after seeing another school promoting their new student breakfast on Twitter. He is always looking for new opportunities for the club to get involved, and this seemed like a perfect idea for them.
“On their first day, we have a student walk them around, give them a tour, but I think it’s just so overwhelming for them,” Koebel said. “I’m hoping this will be a little more laid-back for them. I want to introduce them to some friendly faces and good role models.”
During the breakfast, new students received a welcome packet that included a list of all the sports, clubs and other organizations the school offers. Koebel and Principal Mark Fullen, who stopped by for a visit, encouraged all of the students to find a way to get involved at Newark High School.
Sophomore Gabriele Moore joined Newark High School a few weeks ago after her family moved to Newark from Groveport. So far, things have been going well as a Wildcat; people have been helpful and nice, but the school is a lot to take in, she said.
Moore was happy to be invited to the breakfast.
“I think it was helpful, it was a legit idea. I don’t know if a lot of other schools would do this,” she said. “Rachel’s Challenge was a big deal at Groveport. I definitely think it’s cool they’re doing this here.”
Moore added she was thinking about joining the group.
FOR Club was inspired by the Rachel’s Challenge assembly the school hosted last fall. Rachel’s Challenge is a nonprofit organization that works to empower students and encourage compassion. It was founded in memory of Rachel Scott, who was the first victim of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
“I really have been impressed with their (FOR Club’s) dedication to making the school a more positive environment,” Koebel said. “I think we’ve built up a lot of momentum this year and I’m looking forward to continuing that.”