Omaha Bryan High School debuted the new Omaha Public School’s Freshmen Academy program at the start of this school year in an effort to create closer bonds throughout the school.
The Freshman Academy program puts new high school students into groups that will let students learn in small groups together throughout the year.
BHS kicked off the program with a field day event on Sept. 9 and Sept. 10.
The field day consisted of a number of student activities getting the students outside, working together and engaging with their teachers.
There are three Freshman Academy groups at BHS and each had their allotted time for field day. BHS principal Rony Ortega said several schools in the Omaha Public Schools district are implementing a freshman academy.
“We have 400 some freshmen here who are joining us this year and what’s different this year for them is they are now part of a small group, a small learning community in which they share teachers, they share classmates,” Ortega said.
BHS students will be a cohort and go through the same core classes through the academy.
“It makes the learning environment nice for them, personal for them, meaningful for them and more relevant because they get to know their teachers or classmates on a more personal level.” Ortega said.
He said the field day event allowed for students to get to know each other and their teachers outside of the classroom.
“What I saw out there today was just awesome and inspiring, kids were mingling with kids they didn’t know before, kids were taking on leadership roles, kids were seeing their teachers as human on a very personal level and just kids were enjoying themselves,” Ortega said.
Some of the field day activities included forming a human ladder, getting a team across a spider web without touching the web and several other team-based events.
All the activities that focused in on building up communication and teamwork skills.
Ortega said this sharpening of social skills was much needed after how last school year was affected by the pandemic.
“We’ve had some kids who haven’t been in school since March of 2019, in person and so we know that as a school, we’ve done things to support our kids, transitioning back to in person” Ortega said.
He said the field day showed students were ready for in-person connection.
Ortega said the field day event set the tone for HS for the rest of the year.
“Relationships matter here at Bryan High School, we want great relationships between students, but also relationships between students and teachers,” Ortega said. “We hope that through today we’re able to create more relationships that will translate to higher engagement levels in the classroom.”
He said when students feel more comfortable with each other they will perform better.
Ortega said there are several things planned the rest of the year for the freshmen academy.
One activity will be to visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.
“I’m just excited about this new beginning in Omaha public schools within the academy, across every high school, what a great opportunity for our kids,” Ortega said.