New freshmen transition program found to be helpful

This school year, Wilton High School launched FLIGHT, a transition program that provides a smaller learning community for the high school’s newest and youngest students.

The FLIGHT program is designed to help freshmen learn resources available at the high school and implement strategies for seeking help from teachers, as well as time management skills, study and test-taking skills.

At the Board of Education’s June 8 meeting, freshmen school counselors and FLIGHT leaders Pamela Scott and Deborah Marino shared how the program’s first year of implementation went.

Scott said she and Marino have wanted to do something like the FLIGHT program for “a long time.”

“As counselors, we want to be more visible; we want to be out and seeing our students, sharing the knowledge we have and pointing them in the right direction,” she said, “and having a venue through which we can connect with all of our students more frequently has been great.”

Assistant Principal Amy Korn said she’s heard compliments from ninth graders “all year long” about how much the program has helped them, “how wonderful [Scott and Marino] are, and just how much they appreciate how it’s really setting them up for the next three years.”

This school year, Scott and Marino worked to help freshmen develop various skills — from cognitive, decision-making, and social and emotional to time management, study and test preparation — by delivering teaching modules to the freshmen during their study hall periods.

For the program, Scott and Marino collaborated with civic and social instructional leaders, received departmental support, and worked with Middlebrook School to help incoming freshmen with the course registration process.

Wilton High School Principal Robert O’Donnell told the Board of Education that he noticed a difference in the eighth-to-ninth-grade transition at the high school as a result of the program.

“I think it’s been very helpful,” he said. “The students are gaining quicker and more effective knowledge of resources in the high school that they can apply in a number of ways.”

Marino said she’s had parents tell her that the FLIGHT program made a difference in helping their children feel more comfortable coming into the high school.

According to school climate surveys taken at the beginning of the year, 20.5% of students said they didn’t feel connected to any adult in the high school.

However, by the end of the year, that number dropped to 1.1% — and 38% of students reported that they “definitely” feel connected to at least one adult in the school.

“Whether it was us that they connected with or someone else [they met] through a resource lesson that we did, or just us encouraging them to see teachers,” said Scott. “whoever that person may be, we were just happy to see that we were able to move that needle a little bit in a positive direction for our students.”