Incoming freshman in Hope, Arkansas got a needed boost today with an event held in their honor as they enter high school.

A two-day orientation series for 150 incoming Hope High School ninth-grade students was kicked-off Tuesday at the first annual HHS Freshman Breakfast.

The HHS Class of 2023 got straight to preparation for its first year as the HHS Ninth Grade Academy as students and parents began to literally learn the lay of the land on the HHS campus.

Welcomed to the campus by Tisha Hunter, ninth-grade dean of students and literacy instructional facilitator, the students got necessary paperwork completed and were introduced to some key components of student life at HHS.

“We want you to connect with each other and to an adult on this campus,” Hunter said.

That connection, she said, will help each student navigate uncertainties in their first year and build lasting relationships throughout their high school experience.

Hunter said the Ninth Grade Academy will be housed in the HHS “annex” building, but some elective classes such as band, athletics, or agriculture will require students to attend on other parts of the campus.

HHS School-Based Health Center Coordinator Gretchen Carlton said the new health service will be in place for students and staff based upon referrals through the office of District Nurse Renee Sells. Carlton said the center will offer medical and mental health services, but students are required to be registered to receive services.

Services were to be offered beginning Aug.1, and a formal ribbon-cutting for the center is set for Aug. 20 at 10 a.m.

HHS Counselor Varonica Kennedy reminded the incoming freshmen of the importance of their academic standing.

“Every class counts,” Kennedy said.

She encouraged the students to “give it 110 percent” in their academics this year. Kennedy said copies of student schedules remain available through her office.

HHS Principal Bill Hoglund encouraged the freshmen to begin their high school experience with an attitude of growth. Hoglund said HHS is the only school in the Southwest Arkansas Educational Cooperative region to have shown academic growth in the 2018-2019 academic year.

“We are on our way to being a better school than we were three years ago,” Hoglund said. “Before you graduate, we are going to be the best school in Southwest Arkansas.”

But, Hoglund said HHS needs the new class to step up to the challenge.

“We are going to get after it mentally, physically and academically,” he said. “You may not know what you want to do after you graduate. Our job is to provide you the tools to do whatever it is you want to do.”

Hoglund said accepting the accountability for the future is the first step to growth.

“When you know better, you can do better,” he said. “Every adult on this campus is to be an advocate for you.”

Hope Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart built upon that theme.

“The next four years are the most important to your future,” Dr. Hart said. “If you begin by getting five credits in your freshman year; passing five classes in your freshman year, you are 90 percent more likely to graduate at the end of four years.”

Hart said HHS has begun to set a new standard.

“Hope High School is now the school everyone wants to come to,” he said.

Students capped the morning with tours of the campus, completion of the Accuplacer math component, and getting student identification cards.

The second day of the two-day orientation Wednesday included a get-acquainted trip to Little Rock to attend the Arkansas Outdoor School Program at the 4H Center for activities such as archery, rock climbing, canoeing, and GPS surveying.

Story and photo by Ken McLemore

Hope High School Principal Bill Hoglund welcomed the Class of 2023 to the HHS campus Monday during the Freshman Breakfast which kicked-off a two-day freshman orientation for the new Ninth Grade Academy students.