The Genoa Middle School eighth-graders approached Westerville Central High School for a building tour on Wednesday — months before they launch their high school career as a freshman in the fall.
The group of Genoa students, accompanied by English Learners teacher Amy Erath, have only been in the United States for less than two years. For some of these eighth-graders, school was one room with all grades combined. The visit marked their first time in an American high school.
“This is the first year I have done a tour before school is out because I have never before had so many newcomers,” Erath said. “We hope that visiting and meeting the English teachers before the summer will help their transition to high school in the fall. They will see a face they recognize and not be so nervous to start.”
Seven students, including one who served as a translator for a refugee from Ukraine, participated in the tour led by WCHS senior DJ Bardwell. His mother, Tina, is an eighth-grade science teacher at Genoa who helped coordinate the visit with the two buildings.
He was happy to lead the tour in hopes of helping the students get more comfortable with their surroundings and connect with people who can help support them while in high school.
“I feel like I remember my time as a freshman,” he said. “I was really nervous going through high school so I can’t imagine what people feel when they are not even from this country.”
He greeted the Genoa group at the WCHS entrance, pausing throughout the tour to introduce students to staff and teachers. As he spoke, Erath translated in Spanish for some students while another student spoke in Russian for the eighth-grader from Ukraine. They walked through the cafeteria, visited high school EL classrooms and teachers, and stopped by the gym. During a visit to EL teacher Amy Eyerman’s class, Eyerman shared how she and her students planted sunflowers in the courtyard as a tribute to the people of Ukraine. The sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower.
Erath said students enjoyed the visit and seeing how the school was laid out. What impressed them the most?
The two gyms, she said.