Bridging The Gap

The Upper School Bridge Program prepares new students


Photo credit: Emily Evans

Joe Bruno welcomes new high schoolers with presentation outlining expectations for the Bridge program.

Every student faces big transitions, whether it’s switching advisories, classes, or even schools. The Bridge program works specifically to help incoming students transition into Parker’s close-knit community. 

Head of Community Committee Wyatt Chatalas works directly with Dean of Students Joe Bruno to organize five days of orientation, held over two weeks, for new upper schoolers. 

“Bridge gives new students the tools to have the best first start possible,” Chatalas said. “The difference between week one and two is huge. New students were acting like they knew each other for years.” 

Bridge this year was classified as an absolute success. Each day included important information for new students. “Bridge is so helpful.” incoming freshman Penny Wood said. “I know the school and the people better than before.”

The first three days were dedicated to the new freshmen, where they attended student and faculty-led presentations on counseling, Parker expectations, Student Government, and progressive learning. Sixteen orientation leaders from varying grades sat in the seats right beside them to answer any questions and respond to comments. “The orientation leaders really made my experience great,” Wood said. “They were so supportive.”

Towards the end of the program, incoming sophomores, juniors, and a new senior joined Bridge, including Parker’s new foreign exchange student Eda Altunbaş. “Bridge helped me meet people, but I am the most nervous about meeting new people when school starts.” Altunbaş said. “I wish there were more seniors for me to meet.”

Efforts for students to socialize were prominent during this year’s Bridge program. All activities ensured communication among peers. “At least I became friends with you guys (the orientation leaders) and everyone here,” said Altunbaş. The difference between the new ninth graders and non-ninth-grade students is the level of comfort they felt towards the end of the program. The rising freshman met their entire grade during week two of Bridge, while the six non-ninth graders hadn’t. 

Bridge made new students familiar with Parker lingo, learning the location of classrooms, and their schedules, which are a large part of their Parker experience. “A little goes a long way,” Chatalas said. “As returning students, it’s our job to make sure they don’t feel isolated and feel like a part of our Parker community.”