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Casey Croucher/Recorder staff Ninth grade students at Amsterdam High School leave after their first day.


Welcome back AHS ninth-graders are given a head start

Thursday, September 04, 2014 - Updated: 10:20 AM


Recorder News Staff

With a new school year starting this week, students, teachers and administrators from different districts are looking forward to getting back to class and starting off on the right foot.

"Today, the first day of school, was certainly memorable," Kristiana Morales, a freshman at Amsterdam High School, said Wednesday. "We learned so much new stuff; there's such nice energy from everyone here."

AHS opened its doors Wednesday for its ninth grade students only as part of the school's Ninth Grade Academy.

"The Ninth Grade Academy, or the ninth grade initiative we call it sometimes, is an all-encompassing transition program from eighth to 10th grade," AHS Principal David Ziskin said. "The teachers start working with the kids when they're eighth graders, they start this program in ninth grade and the idea is that they enter 10th grade ready to take off."

The program, which caters to incoming freshmen so they feel comfortable in the halls of AHS, starts the first day of school with ninth grade students only. The students get accustomed to their lockers, their classes, teachers and fellow classmates. They go to shortened, 20-minute classes, a club and sport fair, and have all the ninth grade teachers introduce themselves.

The program is also designed so all of the freshman core classes are located in one area of the school.

"It's so they can get used to the high school atmosphere -- they're all close together, they're not all over the place," Karen Agresta, ninth grade algebra teacher, said.

Jessica Reed, ninth grade social studies teacher, said the academy is important for freshmen because it not only integrates them into high school but introduces them to the faculty so they can create connections.

"There's so much faculty here today and it gives the students a chance to have all of our attention. We're not dividing our time amongst the other classes as well today," Reed said. "That's one of the goals of the academy is to make these student-teacher relationships and that's why I think today is important because when students get to know us really well they can still come to us for anything. It creates a close-knit community."

Agresta said she likes creating a connection with the students so she can give them pep talks and tell them what they need to do to succeed.

"I tell them that they really need to buckle down and work hard and they have to want it -- they have to want to graduate," she said. "There has to be a goal and a focus, right away, from ninth grade on up they have to want to get an education and they have to work hard at it because high school isn't easy."

Ziskin agreed with Agresta but he also said the students have a lot of support from the school to help them achieve their goals.

"If the students work with us they're going to get more support than they could have ever imagined and they'll have people working harder to help them than they could ever imagine," he said. "The teachers in the ninth grade initiative are people that feel so fortunate to be working with these students and they really want to help them succeed."

As for the freshmen, they said moving up to the high school is a big change.

"Today was confusing but good," Jeremy Espinoza said.

"Yeah, I got lost more than once," Morales said.

"I passed the same classroom, like, 10 times," Elizabeth Cheney added.

However, they all agreed they're excited and ready for the change.

"You're allowed to do so much more here -- there's so much more freedom," Morales said, "and everyone starts off trusting you. You're going in with a clean slate. It's awesome."

"I'm excited to meet new people," Cheney said. "The experience of meeting lots of new friends compared to seeing the same people will be exciting. Today I was at lunch and I was going up to new people asking them if they wanted to be my new friend. It was great."

"I like that the classes, and teachers are straightforward," Jake Johnson said. "The excitement for what teachers have in store for us later on as the school year passes, that's what I'm excited for."

"Knowing that there's only four more years left then it's off to college, it's crazy to think about. This is it," Morales added.

Today was the first day of school for the students in grades 10 through 12.


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