The Students in Blue

For the 21 upper schoolers who transferred into Stratford this year, finding a student in a bright sky blue shirt during the first day of school meant directions to class and a familiar face.

The students in the blue shirts are Ambassadors, a new program created to help new students find their way at a school where many students have been in classes together since pre-Kindergarten.

“The main goal is to help new students find a place to fit in,” said guidance counselor Ms. Jaqui Wilson, who heads up the Ambassador program.

Wilson said the program was created after a former transfer student wrote an article in the Gazebo last year about her difficult transition to Stratford

“In addition to traditions and spirit, just navigating the hallways during the first months was difficult. I didn’t know where to park or where to go during study hall and break. I almost got a demerit for walking straight through the cafeteria, because no one told me to walk through the gym,” Siena Guerrero wrote in her op-ed.  “Many of these problems could have been avoided through better communication. The buddy system should be redesigned to include more former ‘new’ students.”

Soon after Guerrero’s article was published, upper school principal Ms. Margaret Brogdon, Wilson, and Guerrero established the framework for the new program.  Although Guerrero herself left Stratford at the end of last year — transferring to yet another new school outside of Washington, D.C. — Wilson recruited 20 ambassadors to launch the program.

“I joined the Ambassador Program because I was that new student, and I felt like I should help other new students adjust to Stratford,” said Nisha Shetty, who transferred into Stratford in 8th grade.  “I’m using my past experience as a new student to relate.”

Caitlyn McCullough, a junior who transferred from Mount De Sales Academy, said that the Ambassadors have been a “big help.”

“The Ambassador Program has been personally helpful for me because the Ambassadors were always available to show me where my classes were and how to find all the different classrooms,” McCullough said.

Wilson said that the Ambassadors adapted some of their ideas from the Peer Mentors, an existing program designed to help 9th graders make a smooth transition from middle to upper school.  But the Ambassador program is distinct from the mentors in that the Ambassadors focus on new students rather than just freshmen.

“The Ambassador Program is a good addition to Stratford in that it’s just a program for new students,” Shetty said.