Start Strong program enters third year

Hannah Norton, Staff Writer

Thirty-three students are participating in the Start Strong program this year, which is designed to help incoming freshmen make the transition between middle school and high school.
The Start Strong program, which began in 2012, works with students throughout their freshman year, helping them get acquainted with Liberty, stay organized, and keep up with their homework.
Start Strong was originally created just for Liberty, but by May 2013, Issaquah and Skyline had established their own Start Strong programs as well.
“The program started with the idea of trying to work with Maywood Middle School to get a list of the students who knew they wanted to be academically successful, but could really benefit from a little bit of support to help them succeed,” principal Josh Almy said.
During its first year, Start Strong consisted solely of a one-week summer camp before school started. This year, the program has evolved into an extensive year-long support system for students.
“We hold periodic meetings throughout the school year with topics that span from how to have healthy peer relationships to test-taking tips and strategies on dealing with stress, in addition to a surprise fun event at the end of the school year,” social studies teacher and Start Strong advisor Aubrey Mathwig said.
Any freshmen can participate in Start Strong, but the program is aimed to help students who may be struggling in school but want to succeed.
“Generally, students who do really well academically during their freshman year typically keep that same level of academic success throughout high school,” Almy said. “But students who fail classes, who are credit deficient, typically struggle in high school. Therefore freshman year is such an important year as far as getting acclimated to high school, and the quicker we can get these kids out of the gate positively, not having dug themselves a hole, the better.”
An overwhelming number of Start Strong students enjoyed the program and felt that they benefited from it. Students felt that it helped them prepare for their classes, get to know the school, and generally do well at Liberty.
“I did Start Strong last year, which gave me a better idea of the expectations, and that helped me a lot,” sophomore Alex Sheflo said. “I learned what was expected of me a lot quicker, and I learned how to work smarter.”