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Connect with Community By mia goldstein and oliver lete-straka

On March 3, the 132 lucky students who won a spot in the annual CHS lottery flooded into Craft Theater, both anxious and eager to be in an unfamiliar high school environment. They arrived promptly at 1:40 p.m. on buses from local middle schools. Restless chit-chat and uneasy smiles were shared around the theater as the CHS jazz band played and students awaited Dean Marcy Tuzinsky.

Soon after Dean Marcy welcomed and addressed the eighth graders, the Stapleton forum charged the stage. Hoots and hollers came from all around as they performed a rap to the tune of “Ice, Ice, Baby.” Feet were stomping and hands were clapping as Stapleton forumettes rapped and danced.

“I was really excited to see new people and what they were like,” said Evan Ochoa, a current eighth grader. “It was just really fun. It was quite a show.”

Following the rap, students watched a few welcome videos and had a chance to ask Dean Marcy any pressing questions. At 2:30 p.m., it was time to go visit forums.

The students were given a colorful slip of paper with an image on it before they entered the theater. These images corresponded with the forum they would be going to. The Kiley forum, for example, was an image of an assortment of candies. Two forum representatives were sent down to the Craft Theater to pick up the eighth graders.

On the way back to each forum, the CHS students took the newcomers to a long table filled with snacks stationed right outside Craft Theater.

“Dean Rebecca wanted some snacks for kids,” said a current CHS parent and member of the PTO. “So we rented the popcorn machine and made popcorn, candy and water. It’s a treat for the kids. And look at these labels! Aren’t they sweet? They say, ‘Connect with Community.’”

Dean Rebecca and Kevin talk to a PTO volunteer and parent of a CHS student outside of Craft Theater. The volunteer was preparing and finalizing the snack station for the eighth grade guests. "My daughter definitely loves it. She feels at home and we really like that the school is smallish," the PTO volunteer said.

The two PTO volunteers were ecstatic to have their kids attend CHS and spoke briefly about it before they were swarmed by eager students.

“My son is having the best year of his life,” said one of the parents. “I thought that he might need more structure, but it turns out he grew into it in no time. He is completely independent now. I just love the feeling of the school, how everyone is very welcoming and accepting.”

Following the short snack break, the eighth graders were paraded to their forum.

The next hour or so involved icebreakers, interactive games, answering any lingering questions and more eating. Forums such as the Mankad and Kiley forum addressed questions involving block scheduling, dueling at another high school and playing sports. The DeWoskin and Anderson forum doled out more treats like cake and cupcakes.

“It was a perfect blend of activities where kids were standing up and moving around, and also where kids were sitting down and having time to connect and to chat,” said Tracy Anderson, an english teacher and forum leader at CHS. “It had a great balance of individual activities and then group activities.” Her forum congregated in a large circle and went around sharing interesting facts about themselves, led by Anderson.

The Stapleton forum met in Bodley Hall and played interactive games. All of the students formed two large circles, one inside the other, and moved clockwise each time Robby Stapleton, forum leader, asked a leading question. Students were able to meet each other and share random, but personal things about themselves. Students were asked about their favorite songs, their shoe size, and if they were unsure about attending CHS themselves.

The Stapleton forum forms two large circles in Bodley Hall as they move around the room getting to know one another. Robbie Stapleton stood in the center directing the group and giving prompts for what people should talk about. "It's fun to meet new people," Stapleton said.

“We hopefully helped some eighth graders make some decisions about where they are going to go to high school,” Stapleton said.

The 2020 Connect with Community was undoubtedly a success; the popcorn station, Stapleton rap and icebreakers were hopefully a great way to introduce incomers to the school environment and CHS spirit.