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Fresh(men) Meet

Langley and McLean high school freshman orientations prepare students and parents for the school year.

Last Wednesday, as Lorna Rivers and Monica Martinez huddled over their newly received class schedules, the 14-year-olds made a disappointing discovery.

"Well, we just found out that we don't have any classes together at all," said Martinez. "But we also found out that we get a break, so we're going to spend that together."

The two friends started their freshman year at Langley High School on Tuesday — and aside from a lack of shared classroom time — they could not be more excited to begin their high school careers.

"It feels good," said Martinez. "We're not going to be with the little kids anymore, we're going to be with the big kids."

Lorna Rivers said she is happy to finally be joining the high school ranks.

"I'm so excited," said Rivers. "The only thing I'm nervous about is that I don't want to get lost."

Fortunately, the chances of getting lost seem unlikely as the girls attended Langley's student and parent freshman orientation Wednesday, Aug. 30. During the hour-long orientation, parents sat in on an informational meeting in the school's auditorium, while the freshmen were escorted around school grounds by upperclassman. Students were able to reference their schedules and pinpoint classroom locations. In the parent information session, Langley principal Bill Clendaniel assured parents that their children would know their way around the school in no time.

"Sometimes in terms of getting lost, it's the freshman that end up knowing their way around the best," said Clendaniel.

MANY FRESHMAN were vague and non-committal when it came to expressing their emotions about beginning a new phase of their life.

"I'm not really nervous," said Erin Quante, 14. "It's [high school] just something that has to be done."

Her mother Anne Quante said she had no qualms about watching her only daughter begin high school.

"She's very excited about it," said Anne Quante. "The only thing that's going to take some getting used to for her, is how large the school is. Right now it's all a little overwhelming, but I know that as soon as she gets started and settled in she is just going to love it."

Vivek Ashok, 14, said he was neither excited nor nervous about becoming a freshman.

"But I think it will be better than middle school because there will be more opportunities," said Ashok.

For some freshman, the transition to high school was made even easier by the presence of older siblings.

"I'm excited because my sister will be driving me to school everyday," said incoming freshman Sarah Mendelsohn, whose older sister is a senior at Langley this year.

Sarah and her sister are the daughters of former Dranesville District Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn. Their mother Laura Mendelsohn, co-chair of Langley's Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), said that she thinks it will be fun to have two daughters in high school at the same time.

"It will be nice to have them at the same school," said Laura Mendelsohn. "I call them my bookends since one is a freshman and one is a senior."

In addition to the upperclassman guides who were present at orientation, there were also numerous upperclassman representing various sports teams and clubs. Senior Grace Tran was one of several Langley Crew team members who was on hand to recruit and promote.

"It's so funny to see all the freshmen," said Tran. "It's so cute to see them walking around — it reminds me of when I first started."

ON THE VERY WET MORNING of Friday, Sept. 1, incoming 9th graders and their parents attended the McLean High School freshman orientation. Students gathered in the auditorium for a welcoming information assembly, and were then given the opportunity to run through an abbreviated version of their classroom schedules. Students attended 10-minute "classes," enabling them to meet their teachers and figure out where they needed to be. Upperclassman "McLeaders" wearing signs that said "Ask Me" walked through the hallways, answering questions and pointing confused freshmen in the right direction.

While all of this went on, parents crammed into a large lecture hall to listen to McLean High School principal Paul Wardinski and ask questions.

"Based on last year's response, we decided to make it a regular part of orientation," said Wardinski.

Wardinski provided information on topics ranging from student schedules and Friday late-starts, to over-arching social and academic concerns.

This particular portion of McLean's freshman orientation was created last year when Wardinski suggested that the school set up some chairs in case any parents decided to show up with their children. No one expected many parents, and Wardinski was stunned to walk into the lecture hall to find it had become standing room only.

In the school auditorium, McLean High School Student Government Association (SGA) members, cheerleaders and faculty gave the school's newest freshmen class a warm welcome.

"This is a great school with great people and you're going to love it here," said senior and SGA president Flo King.