PRIDE: Commentary on Conant’s Introductory Freshmen Class
When the bell rings at the end of every lunch period, the lunch-bound students of Conant High School feel a sigh of relief as they make their way toward the cafeteria. But on three out of the five weekdays, freshmen find themselves trudging up the stairs to their PRIDE classes, where they will spend half of their lunch period.
PRIDE is an introductory class required for all freshmen to help them get acclimated to high school life. It is a program run by Conant students themselves–responsible juniors and seniors who are mentors. Almost every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, students spend 20-25 minutes of their lunch period in their PRIDE classes as mentors teach them about various topics that are useful to know for their high school experience to be as comfortable as possible. The class aims to help freshmen feel less stressed out about the pressure of switching schools, harder classes, extracurricular activities, and more.
However, the goal of PRIDE is to minimize the overwhelming feeling that can sometimes come to new high school students, but is this really necessary if most students aren’t feeling that way? In addition, PRIDE lessons are geared towards giving students the necessary information in order to be able to navigate through high school, but the content of these lessons is often known by most freshmen before the lesson itself, either by word of mouth, asking a teacher or counselor, or by other means.
Anika Sachan, ‘27, has similar views, “Only a few of the lessons have contained information that I haven’t previously known. The problem is that anything learned in PRIDE can be easily learned by just being at school and hearing your friends or others talk about it.” If students already know most of the content, then why should it be taught again at the expense of free time that students can utilize to study and finish assignments after they are done eating?
Others, however, have a different stance on PRIDE. The student mentors, for example, feel differently, stating that they believe the program truly makes a difference for freshmen and the mentors teaching them.
Anishka Vora, ‘25, describes her experience as a mentor, “As a PRIDE mentor my experience has been both fulfilling and rewarding. Not only does PRIDE help build confidence and promote involvement, but the program also shapes the mentors into leaders. As for the freshmen, PRIDE gives juniors and seniors an opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact on freshmen as they navigate highschool.” Her response emphasizes not only the impact on freshmen, but also the great opportunity for juniors and seniors to give back to the Conant community and become leaders.
Through her experience, she has seen firsthand the effect PRIDE can have on students, not just informationally, but also socially. “These activities have facilitated a positive environment within each class and helped some students make new friends,” Vora said.
The perspective on PRIDE from both sides shows a gap in the perspectives of the usefulness of the program. On one hand, the freshmen feel that they could be using the half-period to work on assignments after they’ve finished their lunch, but on the other hand, mentors express that PRIDE creates an effect on freshmen that just couldn’t be sustained without the program.
Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense to completely scrap PRIDE because it would get rid of the great opportunity for juniors and seniors and the support for freshmen, but it is clear that some improvements have to be made to better suit the needs of freshmen.
A possible solution is asking for feedback from students and then implementing their feedback in the 25-minute time block. By emphasizing that the feedback would create a better use of their own time, freshmen may have a greater motivation to provide valuable feedback. This would also help the mentors do their jobs better and become better leaders in the process because they would learn to accommodate to the needs of the people they are working with.
Another solution would be to modify the lessons in order to teach freshmen about topics that they wouldn’t get to know about by simply asking their friends or classmates.
Vora said, “One lesson that I believe would be beneficial would be an extracurricular activity or presentation. Taking the time to introduce specific clubs and sports can truly encourage students to go get involved!” Conant has an incredible emphasis on getting involved, and incorporating this message into a PRIDE lesson by going through the various activities that Conant offers would be very beneficial to freshmen.
PRIDE, as a program, is very supportive and informational, but the content of the lessons has to be improved to teach freshmen about topics that they don’t already know about, in order to create a more effective use of their and the mentors’ time. This would still give juniors and seniors an opportunity to shape their leadership skills, while helping freshmen get accustomed to high school as quickly and smoothly as possible.
PRIDE is a great program at Conant that can really make a difference in a student’s transition between junior high and high school, and utilizing ideas of the freshmen themselves would create a better experience for themselves and mentors.