Orientation ordinarily is just another boring way to start the school year, unless you’re an incoming freshman at Central Catholic High School.
For Central’s freshmen, orientation doesn’t take place at 300 Hampshire St. in downtown Lawrence, but at Camp Marist on pristine Lake Ossipee in Effingham, N.H.
The morning weather was cool as the 369 freshman boarded nine buses for the two-hour trip on Sept. 7, and by the time they arrived at Camp Marist, the sun was shining and the temperature was rising.
As the buses pulled up to the camp, the freshmen were greeted by 30 members of the senior class cheering and holding signs welcoming the youngsters to Camp Marist and Central Catholic.
The freshmen took their seats by homeroom on a hill, known as the mound for the rest of the day, overlooking the beach and lake.
“The purpose of this orientation is to get to know your classmates,” student director Darren Berrigan of Methuen told the students. “And to have a good time before school officially starts.”
While the teachers and CCHS staff, who served as chaperones, found ome shade to keep cool on this sweltering Friday, the freshmen and senior leaders weren’t so lucky, as the sun beat down upon them.
Members of the staff were constantly filling Dixie cups full of water and lemonade as a way to keep the kids hydrated in between the activities of the day.
Each of the freshmen homerooms had one or two senior leaders to lead the activities, including: Who am I?, the balloon face relay, a garbage bag creativity contest and an egg toss.
The who am I? activity had students write their names on their right arm and something they enjoyed on their left arm, so other students could easily know each other’s names without having to ask.
One of the more fun activities, the garbage bag creativity contest, was based loosely on the TV show, Whose Line is it Anyway? Each homeroom received a black garbage bag filled with props that the kids used to act out various skits.
Some of the skits poked fun at the way seniors treat freshmen, how Central Catholic is a diverse school where all kids get along regardless of religion, race and gender, while other skits simply poked fun at everyday happenings of a high-school student.
“I liked doing the skits,” said incoming freshman Luke Pereira of Methuen. “I felt I could express myself more than in some of the other activities.”
Phil Rosario, also of Methuen, liked the skits as well, but wished all the freshmen had an opportunity to perform in them. “There weren’t enough props,” the 14-year-old said. “So some of us could only watch.”
Rosario added he wanted to make as many friends as possible throughout the day, so he would know more people when classes began the following Monday.
In between some of the activities, everyone enjoyed lunch and dinner, courtesy of the Parents Guild. The group provided turkey, ham and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, and hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner.
After all the bonding activities were held, the students had some free time to cool off by going swimming. Some of the kids were so hot they jumped in the lake with their clothes on. Others opted to play football or basketball, throw a Frisbee or simply just relax.
Some of the freshmen enjoyed the free time more than orientation itself.
Juliana Piemonte of Methuen was one of those students. “I played football and went swimming,” the 14-year-old freshman said. “I went out and talked to everyone, so I met a lot of people during free time.”
Tyler Peloquin, 14, of Dracut was nervous about attending the orientation because he didn’t know what to expect, but was happy with the outcome.
“I was kind of sad because we couldn’t sit with our friends,” Peloquin said. “I was nervous because I was thinking about friends I had already met, but then I was trying to get to know people from my homeroom and it really was something fun and new. Everyone was so friendly.”
Nicolette Peorine of Methuen said meeting new people was the best part of the long day.
“I’ve never been to a big school before,” Peorine said. “I think I’ll probably stick with the kids I know from Methuen and then get to know other people as well.”
Berrigan said he remembered what it was like four years ago when he was a freshman sitting on the beach not knowing other students. That was one of the reasons he signed up.
“I remember I was nervous in the morning, just like these kids were,” Berrigan said. “As the day went on, it’s exactly how it happened here. I kind of came out of my shell.”
Berrigan pointed out that Central Catholic is the only school that he knows of that does this type of orientation. “Other schools should definitely do this,” Berrigan said. “But this is just one of the things that makes Central special.”
The freshmen also learned about the history of St. Marcellin Champagnat, who founded the Marist Brothers. Central Catholic was founded by Brother Florentius of the Marist Brothers in 1935.
After learning the history of their school, the freshmen were greeted with facts about the teachers and staff attending the orientation.
As a way to find out if they were paying attention during that time, kids were called up and asked to answer a question about one of the adults. A wrong answer resulted in the freshman getting a face full of whipped cream.
The orientation was concluded with the freshmen learning the school’s alma mater. “This makes them part of the Central family,” Berrigan said.