When Kayden Nichols heads into his freshman year at Tombstone High School this fall, he’s confident about making a smooth transition from middle to high school.

Nichols is one of about 40 incoming freshmen who participated in Summer Bridge, a free, three-week program that provides freshmen with a math and English refresher, familiarizes them with the high school campus, and gives them opportunities to meet other students, teachers and administrators. Students earn a half credit for attending the three-week session.

The program, which started June 10, runs through Friday. Along with the extra academic support, it includes team-building activities and socialization opportunities. Students are at the high school Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon and are provided lunch.

“We’re going through a lot of review right now, but I think it’s good practice,” Nichols said of the program. “Mr. (Justin) Shook teaches the math review and Ms. (Augusta) Lucas goes through an ELA (English Language Arts) review. They give us class assignments to work on so we don’t get behind during the summer. Because I’m doing this, I’m going to start high school with a good review and I’ll know my way around the campus.”

Shook, who teaches science and economics at THS, also serves as the assistant coach for baseball and football.

“This is my third year with Summer Bridge,” he said. “It’s a good program for freshmen because it helps get the kids to a prerequisite level in math and English. And it offers a secondary benefit of socializing with other students while introducing them to the school.”

The first part of the morning is dedicated to about 30 minutes of “Morning Madness” where students divide into two teams and play fast-action games with Principal David Thursby serving as officiator.

Monday started out with three games — machine gun pass, dodgeball and bucket-ball — with the action taking place inside the school’s common area.

“Get to know as many people as you can because these are going to be some of your classmates for the next four years,” Thursby advised while organizing the teams. “We hope all of you get involved in the school’s sports programs and extracurricular activities. High school can be a lot of fun, but a big part of your high school experience is getting involved with the programs that are offered.”

While new to Tombstone, Lucas comes to the high school with extensive experience as an English teacher.

“I love the Summer Bridge program,” she said. “Anything that will help freshmen succeed is a great investment of time and energy. And it helps build confidence as they start high school.”

Because of Tombstone’s block system — where classes are 90 minutes long — students take a 36-week course in 18 weeks, Lucas said.

“I really like the block system, but freshmen are at risk of not understanding the rigor involved,” she said. “So, that’s where this summer program is a huge benefit. I’m focusing on grammar, writing and reading with a few fun projects thrown in, hoping to prepare them for the longer class sessions. I want them to know what to expect when they start high school here.”

As a Hereford resident, 13-year-old Skyler Mazzanti is completely new to Tombstone Unified School District.

“This program is really helpful because I didn’t know anything about this school,” she said. “It’s helping me get familiar with the teachers and school, and makes me more comfortable about starting my freshman year.”

Former Col. Smith Middle School student Thomas Campbell also praised the summer program.

“I had no idea what to expect, since this is a whole new school district for me,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to meet the principal and some of the teachers I’ll have in future years, and I think the reviews we’re getting in English and math are really good for us.”

The first day of school for TUSD is Aug. 5. There are currently 420 students enrolled at the high school, with Thursby expecting the number to climb between 430 and 440 once school starts.

“Our enrollment is increasing,” he said. “If we get the number of students we’re expecting, this will be the largest enrollment in Tombstone High School’s history. So, we’re looking forward to a great 2019-2020 school year with a lot of new programs for our students.”

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