The transition from junior high to high school can at times be difficult.
There are in some cases new buildings, new teachers and staff, new class schedules and routines, and a group of upper-classmen who may be strangers.
Helping make the transition easier for the eighth grade girls at Knob Noster was the focus of the district’s third annual Pink Panther Event.
“Today is a day about transitions and helping these young ladies discover that they are intelligent, unique people and that they should be proud of themselves,” said Heather Wallace, junior high counselor at Knob Noster. “It’s a day when we try to help alleviate some of their worries and concerns about moving to high school and also a day when we help them to develop and build their self-esteem.
Wallace and Knob Noster high school counselor Amanda Wesley planned Saturday’s 12-hour event.
Thirty eighth grade girls were partnered with 10 junior girls into small groups to help ease some of the fears the younger students may have about life in high school.
“I remember when I first came to school here I felt like I didn’t know anyone,” Arianna Hawks, a group leader, said. “We’re a small school but you can still get lost in those first days.
“Now, they will know at least 10 faces and they know we will be there to help them if they have any questions or want someone to talk to,” Hawks added.
Hawks said she and the other upper-classmen would reconnect with the younger girls once school began in August.
“We want to reconnect with them when school starts and make sure they are OK,” Hawks said. “Gradually they form their own groups and they don’t need as much but they know we are here if they need us.”
The day featured a scavenger hunt to help the girls familiarize themselves with the high school, an ice cream social, and a lip sync competition at 10:25 p.m. Saturday.
In between all the fun, there were numerous workshops and Wallace added that they had several guest speakers to lead those as well as the discussion sessions that followed the presentations.
“It’s a day that has a slumber party mentality in many ways,” Wallace said. “But, we address some important issues today.”
Many of the speakers came from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
They spoke on topics ranging from building healthy relationships, discovering the beauty each individual has both inside and out, physical fitness and self-defense.
“We want the girls to realize that it is OK for them to be who they and we try to help them alleviate the fears they may face as they are growing up,” Wallace said. “One of the neat activities we do is we have each girl write on inflated balloons their fears.
“In our small groups we talk about those fears and worries and discuss solutions and problem solving techniques,” Wallace added. “Then we all pop the balloons together to show them those things can be resolved if you think about ways to deal with the situation.”
Wallace and Wesley added that many of the activities were designed to help get the girls out of their comfort zones and build their self-confidence.
“I think one of the underlying issues whenever there is a conflict is the question of self-esteem,” Wesley said. “We want the girls to realize they are great kids and they shouldn’t let others put them down.”
In her opening remarks to the group, Hawks touched on that theme.
“I want to encourage all of you to really be yourself on the first day when you walk in the high school,” Hawks said. “We (teenagers) are not as bad as society makes us out to be.
“We are diverse in many different ways; it’s a mix and that’s what makes us special,” Hawks added. “I would encourage you to let your guard down and be you.”
Hawks also encouraged the girls to become involved in athletics and extracurricular activities and to make every day and every year of high school count.
“On Monday, when the girls go to school we want them to all wear the T-shirts they were given today,” Wallace said. “We want them to take back all of the energy and excitement from today with them and share it with the girls who couldn’t be here today and then carry that to next year and throughout high school and beyond.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484