New Paltz and Highland high schools welcome incoming freshman students

Freshman orientation at New Paltz High School. (photo by Brandon Missig)

Freshman orientation at New Paltz High School. (photo by Brandon Missig)

While summer isn’t officially over until September 22, nothing says “autumn” like a back-to-school freshman orientation session. Our area held two such events last week: New Paltz High School welcomed their incoming ninth-graders and transfer students with an assembly, a screening of a student-produced film and a cook-out on Wednesday, August 27, and Highland High School held an orientation breakfast on Thursday, August 28, followed by interactive activities for the students and a professionally produced, engaging film presentation about treating oneself and others with respect.

Soon-to-be freshman students and their parents gathered in the New Paltz High School auditorium on a hot, sticky afternoon, welcomed by the school’s principal Barbara Clinton and Superintendent of Schools Maria Rice. “Welcome to one of the nation’s most challenging high schools,” said Rice. “But don’t let that frighten you; we have amazing teachers and support staff, and you’ll have everything you need to be the best that you can be.”


Principal Clinton kept the mood light, introducing the school’s guidance counselors and other staff members and offering encouragement to both the incoming students and their parents. Before long, the lights dimmed and a student-made film created by last year’s seniors in the school’s digital video editing class presented a parody of teachers and a celebration of high school life, particularly its extracurricular activities.

After the film, incoming students were put in the hands of current students, who toured them around the buildings in small groups and answered their questions about what to expect from their new school. Parents stayed behind in the auditorium to hear presentations from the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), the New Paltz Athletic Association and the Community Partnership group that connects students with the greater community.

Before a cook-out in the parking lot brought the day to a close, Clinton reminded parents that a special meeting for parents of ninth grade students would be held on Thursday, September 11 at 6:30 p.m. so that any problems or concerns could be addressed before the school year is too far underway.

The first day of school was Wednesday, September 3. Open House will be held Tuesday, September 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, call the school at (845) 256-4100 or visit


Highland High School

Breakfast in the cafeteria began the orientation event for the 142 freshman students who will soon fill the halls at Highland High School. Principal Peter Harris offered the students helpful transitioning tips and told the students that his door is always open to them, along with that of Superintendent of Schools Deborah Haab. The students then broke up into small groups with an Honors Society mentor student leading them through a six-period abbreviated version of an actual school day, going from class to class and getting a sense of what it’s like to get to where they need to go in three minutes. They met some of the teachers, who offered interactive activities including an impromptu volleyball game, math games and a writing exercise in which they were asked to write down some goals they had for high school. The answers, some of them read aloud later at the final assembly presentation, to which parents were invited, ran the gamut from “be the prom queen” and “get a scholarship” to “stand up for myself” and “don’t give up.”

This led nicely into the feature film presentation created by the nonprofit Camfel Productions, who specialize in producing character-building resources for schools all across the country. The film they showed the Highland students, “Quest for Respect,” was a professionally produced three-screen production with contemporary music and a reality-based message about earning respect and staying true to one’s values that clearly had the rapt attention of both its young and older audience members.

The first day of school in Highland was Wednesday, September 3. Open House at Highland High School will be Wednesday, September 17 at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call the school at (845) 691-1020 or visit