Wiregrass Newsroom: Students get a jump on freshman year through new program

J.T. Black reads a book with other classmates as part of the Summer Bridge Program at Dothan High School.
J.T. Black reads a book with other classmates as part of the Summer Bridge Program at Dothan High School.

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) -  If you walk through the halls of Dothan or Northview High Schools you might think school already started.

It kinda has for students like J.T. Black.

J.T. is one of about 150 freshman participating in the free Summer Bridge Program at the two high schools.

"They've given us a nuturing environment where we can come have a good time with our friends and still be productive in the process," says Black.

Teachers say the program provides a sample to freshman of what high school is all about.

They learn the expectations, what classes are like and get a chance to learn the lay of the land.  There's even a bus ride to and from school.

"We want to give them that extra foot forward, that solid ground for when they come into the high school that first day," says Dothan High School's 9th Grade Transition Coordinator, Christina Johnson.

But it doesn't just stop with the program. Administrators are adding what they call 9th grade Academies to both Dothan and Northview high schools. At Dothan High, the old arts and sciences building will soon be the new home for freshman.  At Northview, the 100-hall will house the freshman classes.

"We know from research that they'll be much more successful in high school if they have that year in a 9th grade academy," says Dothan City Schools' Superintendent, Dr. Sam Nichols.

Administrators and teachers believe these freshman initiatives will help improve test scores and ultimately graduation rates.

"When you have the child before school starts and you can show them what the expectations are, they have a much better rate of success in reaching those expectations," says Johnson.

And J.T. is glad he's learning the expectations early, even if there's a little suffering along the way.

"They let me know my bus was going to pick me up about 6:30, and I'm not a morning person."

Perhaps he's learning a little more about high school than he thought.

Teachers say you can sign up for the program at any time. Both schools are holding another two week session in July.

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