Patriot Expedition 2019

Johnathan Hampton, Writer, Photographer

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Patriot Expedition has come once again and with it a new wave of rising ninth graders, many of whom delving for the first time into the world of high school. This past Wednesday, eighth graders from Discovery Middle School visited the Bob Jones campus and were immersed in nearly a day’s worth of high school culture and seemingly endless opportunities. “Patriot Expedition is a day of excitement and fun where the eighth graders get to come up [to Bob Jones] to get a snippet of the great things that are offered [here],” explained Mrs. Thaxton, the chief coordinator of the annual event. Bob Jones personnel eagerly awaited the arrival of the future generation of ninth graders.

Upon their appearance at Bob Jones, the rising high schoolers were given a warm welcome by staff, band, and student representatives alike, and to top it off, viewed a dance routine by the Bob Jones Cheerleaders and Winter Guard, who showcased their work, titled The Red Slipper. Students were then directed to the auditorium, where they watched Lies about High School, a comical production highlighting the joys and woes of high school life, made by the school’s very own drama department.

Following the play, students went to the cafeteria to have their first taste of high school cuisine and got a chance to meet and mingle with their Patriot Expedition group leaders– current high schoolers. For some guides, now the leaders and not the “new kids,” being a role-model was somewhat humbling. “It’s kind of like the tables have turned,” said Dalia Altubah, a Patriot Expedition guide and senior at Bob Jones, “When I was in eighth grade, I would have never pictured myself as a person leading these people into an environment they are totally unaware of.” For others, like senior Jessica Clemens, being a guide for the eighth-graders was a gratifying experience. “It feels really good being a guide…it makes me feel really special that someone recognized us and chose us [for the position].”

After the eighth graders made acquaintances with their respective guides over lunch, Expedition leaders broke up into groups and began their tours around the school. Reporting for this event was based on the itinerary of the Yellow group, one of the nine groups dividing the over 400 Discovery Middle schoolers visiting Bob Jones. All scheduling and organization for the group were overseen by Patriot Expedition guides Jessica Clemens, Faith Stewart, Jake Palenapa, and Johnathan Hampton along with Discovery instructors.

Students in the Yellow group started off their tour at the Foreign Language Department, overseen by French instructor and Language Department Head Angela Mooney, where they learned the ins-and-outs of language education and the many opportunities open to them, including the newly introduced Seal of Biliteracy and future study abroad programs. Next on the list came a visit to Bob Jones’ AFJROTC Academy, headed by Lt. Col. Randy Herd and Chief Ellis Clark, where middle schoolers were immersed in its diverse programs, including Orienteering, Aerospace, Marksmanship, and Honor Guard. The middle schoolers then took a trip to engineering teachers Mrs. Gaines and Mr. Bailey’s room, where they learned about the engineering classes offered at Bob Jones.

The list continues on with a visit to Mr. Lanford’s construction facility, a stop by Mrs. Norton and Lakso’s art rooms, and a tour of Mrs. Rountree’s Computer Science lab. The rising ninth graders then got the opportunity to talk to a panel of high school seniors (Love Lundy, Juanita Monteiro-Pai, Will Griffith, Michael Guthrie, Aditi Limaye, and Madison Emmons) and ask questions about high school do’s and don’ts, academic pursuits, and navigation around the labyrinth that is Bob Jones High School.

Students then learned about Mrs. Dennis and Mrs. Lawson’s Biomedical and Health Science Academies, toured Mrs. Panagos’ Publications lab, and finished their journey at the FACS classroom, a department covering topics from family to food to fashion, overseen by Mrs. Van Dam and Mrs. Wheeler.

With all these facets of Bob Jones explored, Patriot Expedition proved to be a hectic, overwhelming day indeed for some of the students touring Bob Jones for the first time. Rising ninth grader Colby felt somewhat intimidated by all that Bob Jones had to offer. “[The school is] big and you don’t know what to expect when you go into rooms and they start talking and all that.”

Fellow student Elaine added, “The hallways look confusing, but I’ll probably get used to it because I’ll be here for four whole years.”

Of course, experiencing a new environment will undoubtedly cause stress for newcomers. According to Bob Jones principal Mrs. Lambert, it’s to be expected, even embraced. “We know with all of the planning and doing this every year for many years that all of the information is overwhelming, but that’s what we want to do so that they want to come back and dive into all of these activities and clubs and classes.”

Mrs. Thaxton agreed. “If it gives some future student a glimpse into something that they never thought was an option, that they could be something that they might like or enjoy or even pushes them out of their comfort zone, then Patriot Expedition is successful.”

And successful it was; some middle schoolers already had an idea of what they wanted to pursue here at Bob Jones. “For sure I am going to do band in ninth grade because it seems fun,” said Elaine. Fellow student Lexi said her first high school experience was “amazing” and that she is “interested in taking JROTC” when she gets here. Colby said he is interested in taking JROTC as well, and his friend, Jonah, expressed a possible interest in art.

It’s clear that Patriot Expedition has made a positive impression on the minds of the new generation of ninth graders, but this is just the first step in the long journey that is high school. Later that evening, students and their parents alike were encouraged to attend the annual curriculum fair, where students could meet face-to-face with teachers who may or may not have been present during Patriot Expedition. They would also have the opportunity to learn more in-depth about the particular courses they may want to take. “I think the curriculum fair and Patriot Expedition are the two most important things, as kids get to come and experience things, meet lots of people, ask different questions, and even just listen,” explained Discovery Middle School counselor Kelly Moody, “This school and everything we have to offer them here are even bigger than they know…they will still need lots of direction. Let’s face it, I’m still needing direction.”

Whatever be the case, the new generation of ninth graders has a road of endless opportunities for them to take advantage of. Only time will determine how they carve their paths to their future careers.

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