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Interior Alaska students create warm welcome for new kids

March 31, 2018

In this March 20, 2018 photo, videographer Tyson Paris-Hansen records students in a 6th grade science class working on a project in the hall at North Pole Middle School in North Pole, Alaska, as filming takes place for use in Fairbanks North Star Borough School District new student welcome videos. The videos are a few minutes long. They show what the schools look like, the principals, classes in action and interviews with students and staff who point out certain aspects of the schools. (Eric Engman/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP)

NORTH POLE, Alaska (AP) — Abby Creer knows what it is like to be the new kid at school.

Her dad is in the military and she has moved around a lot: from Utah to Washington to Texas to Alaska and back to Texas, Washington and Alaska.

“Even thought it’s scary, you meet new friends,” she said.

The seventh-grader at North Pole Middle School is helping with a project to make other new students feel more welcome. Schools are creating welcome videos and posting them on their websites. Videos have been created for Arctic Light, Hunter, Joy, Ladd and Nordale elementary schools, and production is underway for four more videos at the North Pole Middle School, North Pole High School, Ben Eielson Junior/Senior High School and Fairbanks Building Educational Success Together, or BEST, a homeschool program. In the fall, production will begin at an additional six elementary schools.

Heather Rauenhorst, executive director of Communications, Development, and Engagement for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, is heading up the project. Most of the funding is coming from a $1.5 million federal grant aimed at providing extra social-emotional supports for an influx of military-connected students who will be joining the school district in the coming years.

The grant is being doled out over five years and involves more than making welcome videos, which are being filmed and edited by self-employed videographer Tyson Paris-Hansen at a cost of about $700 per school.

Rauenhorst is hoping the videos will help students adjust to their new environments.

“We thought if we had current students tell what they had experienced as newcomers, it would help incoming students feel more prepared,” she said.

The videos are a few minutes long. They show what the schools look like, the principals, classes in action and interviews with students and staff who point out certain aspects of the schools.

On the video for Nordale Elementary School, students talked about kindness and perseverance.

Paris-Hansen brought his camera into North Pole Middle School last week. Seventh-grader Wesley Seawright said he thinks it’s important to point out that the school has a pool.

Coming from Texas, Seawright thought Alaska would be cold all year long. He also decided to clear up that misconception.

“It’s cold during the winter and it’s a long winter,” he said, holding a microphone and looking into Paris-Hansen’s camera. “During the summer, it’s kind of like Colorado.”

His tips for preparing for winter included getting good gear, especially a face mask and goggles for making snow caves and for snowball fights.

Seawright said he encourages new students to be brave, introduce themselves to others and make new friends. North Pole Middle School was easy to adjust to, he said.

“It’s one of the most social and kind schools that I have been to,” Seawright said.

Creer talked about how fun it is in Alaska to get outdoors fishing, skiing, hiking or riding four-wheelers.

Her advice to new students was also to be brave.

“You can’t be scared of what the kids might think of you,” she said. “You just have to go for it.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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