Foundations For Freshman: New Program Allows Juniors to Participate in Campus Discussions

Andover established a new program for Juniors this year to help facilitate their transition to high school and their new lives on campus. “Foundations for Freshmen,” or PACE-9, is taken by all Juniors during their Eng- lish red-dot period once a week.

One of the main pillars of An- dover’s Empathy and Balance curriculum, Foundations was implemented to fulfill the Stra- tegic Plan Committee’s recom- mendation for a developmental health and wellness curriculum. The program will eventually evolve into a four-year program for all students.

Abhinav Tadikonda ’20 said, “We learn about physical and mental resources like [Rebec- ca M. Sykes Wellness Center], meeting with teachers for extra help, and study halls that we can go to. And it eases our transi- tion into the school. For a lot of people, it’s hard to adjust to the work and sleep, so we learned about how to deal with that. It’s just a safe place for people to talk with each other and discuss their problems.”

The Foundations curriculum includes activities and games regarding topics such as available resources, wellness, and identity. Topics that fall under those categories include sleep, nutrition, drugs and alcohol, sexual health, and healthy relationships. Emotional, physical, and social health are also touched upon.

“No one wants to seem vulnerable and no one wants to seem like they don’t have their act together… [This program is] for them to understand and normalize the experience and transition…Sleep is important, [nutrition is important], and hygiene is important… Hopefully providing kids with more information in a fairly organized way helps them,” said Aya Murata, Ninth Grade Course Head of the Empathy & Balance Program.

The establishment of Foun- dations responds to student and faculty complaints about the condensed nature of cur- rent PACE classes. The goal of the Foundations program is to introduce students to topics that will be built upon in fu- ture dorm conversations, day student advising groups, and classroom situations, ensuring that each subject is thoroughly discussed and understood.

“One of the criticisms about PACE [is that] it’s gotten much more condensed over the years. First it was a year, and then it was two terms, and now it’s become one term…You drop in on all these topics and it’s like, drop and go. There’s no sustained conversation be- yond that about particular top- ics,” said Murata.

Most responses have been overwhelmingly positive, with some Juniors feeling reassured and more confident after being made aware of the resources they can utilize on campus through Foundations. Emma Slibeck ’20 has taken advan- tage of many resources offered at Andover that she was made aware of through Foundations.

“I go to the [biology] study hall and math study hall a lot. Math study hall was really useful because I struggled with geometry for a bit. It’s getting better, so I just think that having the resource[s] to go to felt better than just [feeling] plain lost in postulates and theorems,” said Slibeck ’20.

Hywot Ayana ’20 said, “It’s important that we all know what’s available and not be surprised once we are struggling. We just know [the information] beforehand.”

The Junior groups are led by faculty and Upper volunteers. The majority of Uppers who are involved in the program are prefects of Junior dorms. Max Rigby-Hall ’18 finds these Uppers offer an experienced voice and perspective to the new class.

“Having [Juniors] be taught by and work with fellow stu- dents, especially upperclass- men, is incredibly important because they can learn about experiences we have had and hopefully feel less alone… Last year, being friends with up- perclassmen made me feel so much better and made me feel like a real part of the school… Also, students are less afraid to ask questions of their peers, so the [Juniors] know they can ask us anything in or outside of class,” said Rigby-Hall in an email to The Phillipian.

Rachel Hyland, Instructor in Spanish, who serves as an advisor to one Foundations group, hopes to teach her Ju- nior students to find balance in their lives at Andover through the program.

Hyland said, “Oftentimes students are so focused on just their academics… it’s good to find balance. We want to teach kids not just how to study his- tory or language or math. We want to teach them to live bal- anced, healthy lives, which is probably more important than any of that. It helps you learn.”

Foundations is planned to become a diploma requirement. The course will require no homework and does not provide any final grade. At the end of this pilot year, a faculty vote will decide the effective- ness and official establishment of the program.