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South Salt Lake Journal

The class of 2028 starts new academic adventure

Aug 30, 2021 04:18PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Keri Graybill instructs a small group on the fine points of coming to junior high school during the GPJHS orientation. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Remember when you were in elementary school, and you couldn't wait to be in sixth grade. Why? Because you would be on the top of the student pecking order. You finally are the king of the hill.

For sixth graders in the Granite School District, it is a different story. Since sixth grade is now part of junior high, sixth graders went from being top of the hill to being in a new school, having new rules, a new social order and new responsibilities.

"The school is a bit scary and a bit fun," a sixth-grade girl said.

"New school. No problem," a sixth-grade boy said.

On Aug. 13, administrators and teachers held a school orientation for the incoming class of 2028.


As the students assembled in the auditorium, videos created by the school's A-team (The A-team is the GPJHS's audiovisual team) continued to repeat the school's motto: Dreaming of College and Beyond. This motto is reinforced with messages on walls, teachers' teaching methods, the AVID binder each student receives, and the available opportunities.

Principal Chris Griffiths welcomed the student and announced, "You all are now Grizzlies."

Griffiths also mentioned to the incoming class they are part of a 950-student body, and that each student has freedom and responsibility.

"One of those freedoms and responsibilities is going from class to class," Griffiths said. "You have five minutes between classes."

He shared six "bits of advice" with the students to enhance their junior high experience: make new friends; get involved in something; don't be afraid to try something new; treat people with kindness; make right choices; and ask for help with anything

"Consistent attendance is the No. 1 key to success," Griffiths said. "Add engagement with learning, and you have growth, which is what junior high is all about."

Vice principals Tim Clark and Sharla Bynum continued the orientation.

"Our theme this year is ‘I am a Grizzly,’" Bynum said.

Clark and Bynum introduce GPJHS expectations called Grizzly P.R.I.D.E.: Preparation, Respect, Integrity, Dedication and Excellence.

Scavenger hunt

The students spent the next hour or so competing in a scavenger hunt around the school. Each student was given a card with eight locations and had to get each square signed. One of the squares was to visit each of their classes, which will prove helpful on the first day of school. After reassembling in the auditorium, the cards were used to draw 14 grizzly labeled apparel and other items.

The after-school coordinator was introduced along with the four school counselors.

Teacher presentation

The students were divided into smaller groups to visit with a teacher.

Keri Graybill asked what they were excited about and what made them nervous. The students listed no recesses and having different teachers. On the nervous side, they listed being late for class, taller people and new people.

Graybill told the students that they didn't need to bring a backpack or school supplies. Instead, each GPJHS student received an AVID binder containing pencils, a pen, a highlighter, the GPJHS yearly planner and dividers. Each student also receives a Chromebook for the year.

"Over the years, we have found very few students loose the binder," Graybill said at lunch.

In addition, at GPJHS, each student is eligible for a free breakfast and a free lunch.

She explained that doors do not open until 7:30 a.m., but students are not allowed in classrooms until 7:45. At 7:50, the tardy bell rings.

After a pizza lunch and some outside fun time, the buses arrived at 11:45 to take the class of 2028 home to prepare for their new adventure.

“I asked students during lunch if they felt less nervous about the coming year and most told me yes,” Bynum said.