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Incoming Freshman Getting Jump Start at Righetti High School


ORCUTT, Calif. – Yvette Smith is feeling a little apprehensive about starting her freshman year at Righetti High School.

“I’m nervous, I’m so nervous,” said the recent Lakeview Junior High graduate.

Fortunately for Smith, she’s taking part in Righetti’s “Jump Start Academy.”

“I really like Jump Start because I feel it gets me prepared for when school comes around. I get familiar with the campus and it really helps,” said Smith.

Smith, along with about 60 other students, are taking part in the two-week long orientation program created for incoming 9th graders, who are all making the sometimes difficult transition into high school. The academy began on July 18 and will conclude on July 29. Students meet daily from 8:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m.

“This is an opportunity for them to come together, meet each other before school starts, get a little bit of academic warm-up, and learn the community of this school, as well as the lay-out of the school,” said academy lead teacher Geri Coats.

For many of the participants, who are coming from about half-dozen local feeder schools, this represents their first time on the large Righetti campus.

“Going from middle school to high school is a big deal, and it looks like a college to them, so they get really familiar it, so that when the students come here on day one, they know this place, and they feel like they’re a part of it,” said Righetti principal Karen Rotondi.

Rotondi, who is entering her third year as principal, emphasizes the academy is especially important since it exposes students to everything the school has to offer.

“We want to give them a jump start into their four years as a high school student and really become a part of this campus and be successful academically, socially, be a part of the activities, of the athletics, of our clubs and just really feeling comfortable,” said Rotondi.

Another important aspect to the program is that it gets students back into an academic environment after several weeks of summer vacation. Students have to complete a number of academic assignments and activities each day, sharpening their minds and focus.

“They’re helping us reading, writing, math, just kind of getting us back into the routine,” said Smith.

While students are giving up several hours each day of their summer vacation, many feel it will be well worth it once class begins next month.

“It kind of interrupts summer,” said Isaac Nuno. “But I think Jump Start is useful to learn, and I’ll be ready and more prepared for high school as a freshman.”

The Jump Start Academy is now entering its third year, and through its first two years, it’s already proven to be a big success.

“The students that have participated over the past couple of years have been really successful academically, they show fewer absenteeism, they have higher grades, more activities in participation on the school campus,” said Coats.

Rotondi notes Righetti is the only school in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District to offer such an in-depth freshman orientation program and is proud of its success in such a short period of time.

“These kids come in feeling like they are a part of this school and it really sets them off on a good start,” said Rotondi.

Class begins at Righetti High School on Aug. 10.

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