GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- All Grants Pass High School students are headed back to class today. Freshman attended orientation yesterday. This freshman class is the high school's biggest one yet. About 540 freshman are enrolled this year.
"Breathe in, breathe out, you got this," said Principal Ryan Thompson.
Those are some of the first words a sea of freshman heard after grabbing name tags and a high five from upper classmen.
"I'm really excited for athletics and I'm really excited to meet new people," said freshman Isabel Sandoval-Lopez.
She did meet new people at orientation. Each freshman is put into a GP Jump group with four other ninth graders and an upperclassman to show them the ropes.
"Being myself and not worrying about the expectations that other people have," said Lily Woodworth, a senior. "I tried to live up to those expectations in the beginning, but then I realized it wasn't who I was at the core. And it wasn't making me happy."
Even with this guidance, some freshman are still worried about wandering these halls.
"I'm a little bit nervous about finding classes cause it's such a big campus," said freshman William Spagnolo. "But I'm excited. It's new."
Upperclassmen tell me the wide open courtyards are one of the best things about campus. When freshmen do find their classes, upperclassmen want them to know one thing.
"Don't get stressed out about the little things," said senior Dalton Dennis. "Just flow through it. Everyone's here for you. Just have a good time and make the most of everything."
Students will be able to grab their schedules from the gym.
New faculty members
Grants Pass High School students will also see some new teachers when they head back to school this morning.
One of them is Jessica Beck, a physical world and conceptual chemistry teacher. Her room has big tables so students can work on labs. She's been teaching for 16 years now and said that there's a reason she's going to continue.
"It's not just a job, it's a calling," Beck said. "It may have started off as a job and then you meet children and you see how it helps to change their lives. How you better their opportunities in life. And then it becomes a calling."
Students can expect to see three new math teachers and a couple of other new staff members who teach English, special education and credit retrieval.
Career and technical education program
Some students headed back to class won't be going to a conventional classroom. Instead, they'll be learning about different trades.
"I want to teach these kids to be able to create," said welding and fabrication teacher Jake Leair. "And use their brain to make something that they have in mind, sketch it out and then build it."
His students will know how to use welding equipment and tools by the end of the year. And there's a growing need for students who know different trades.
"The world is skilling up," said Jake Leair. "And right now, skill is the currency of the world."
Many welding students understand that. Some even competed at a national Skills USA competition and made future job connections there.
"It's been a really awesome way to get these kids more than just a little bit involved," said Jake Leair. "They're living this thing."
Members of the culinary arts program regularly attend the competition too. They learn how to work in home kitches and industrial ones.
"All of us eat, all of us have to cook," said Courtney Leair, the school's culinary arts teacher. "Students are learning true life lessons. Being able to take care of yourself and others."
Many students graduate with enough skills for a job.
"Those students understand that they can take care of themselves, put themselves through college or work right into the industry," said Courtney Leair.
For more information about the Career and Technical Education program click here.