When senior Juan Estrada started high school four years ago, he wasn’t so sure about the “family style” setup. But now as a senior, he’s convinced that the school is on to something.
“It is really good that it forces you to interact with people you normally wouldn’t,” said Juan. “Now I have gotten used to being more social.”
“It is important for freshmen to get the feel of school,” said senior Kennedy Campbell. “And if they know a junior or senior, they feel they can come to her and ask questions throughout the year.”
“I like that it forces me to meet new people. I don’t get out of my crowd in band and theater much and this forces me to talk with other people and do different activities,” said senior Katie Schneider-Thomas. “I have made some new friends.”
For the past five years, students from all grade levels at Kent City High School have been divided into families, and each year as a few seniors graduate or students move out of the district, each family unit grows with incoming freshmen. The family meets throughout the year, but spends the first days of each school year exclusively with their “family.”
“We have put a premium on building positive relationships with our kids,” said Kent City Principal Bill Crane. “The first four days allows us time to start the year on a great note. It has been amazing to see this grow over the last five years.”
New Friends and Other Benefits
Spending time with upperclassmen personally benefits younger students, said Juan. “Freshmen can look up to a senior, especially after they get to know them,” he said.
Senior Megan Long, who is taking some college level or dual enrollment classes this year, said that the family bonding activities takes some pressure off getting back into the swing of things. “I like the easiness of it,” she said. “It is a good way to experience our college classes and ease into the rest of our schedule.”
“It has been really fun getting to know some of the freshmen,” said senior Emily Bull.
Junior Haley VanSetters added, “It has been a lot of fun and a good way to meet people.”
Ninth-grader Madilynn Roe said that she “really likes meeting new people,” and “all the activities are a really fun way to start school.”
Staff as well as students tout the benefits of building families within the school.
“An added benefit is that I really get to know five or six new kids every year in a different way. Sometimes they come to me all four years with questions and concerns and I don’t even have them in class,” said teacher Chad Dailey.
Dailey explained there are some challenges such as scheduling, “but the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience.”