Students share middle school experiences at DPS expo

Jan. 13, 2014 @ 02:13 PM

A row of students took turns in front of the microphone Saturday morning, sharing their middle school experiences with parents about to help their own children transition into sixth grade.

Classes will walk in lines to the lunchroom, where the best part of lunch is sitting with friends, said student Carlos Huerta Acosta from Lowe’s Grove Middle. Alyeska Dronsfield said at Lucas Middle, students who show kindness to others and don’t use profanity get a surprise on Fridays.
The 5th Grade Parent Expo at Rogers-Herr Middle School is the second of its kind held by Durham Public Schools, and morning and afternoon sessions highlighted a typical middle school day, magnet schools, and athletics and arts programs.
Acelynn Barefoot, an eighth-grader at Carrington Middle, plays basketball and sings in the chorus. When she first started school, she said she felt a little lost and relied on teachers for help. 
She added when she was about to transition into middle school, her older brother had already gone through it so she could follow in his footsteps. He’s a 19-year-old at UNC-Chapel Hill now.
“I’m glad I can help them,” she said about participating in the expo. “I feel like I’m being an older sibling to some of these kids.”
In the hallway, about 25 Githens Middle School Band members stood in front of stands, reading sheet music for “Sweet Caroline” and “Moves Like Jagger,” greeting parents with music between sessions.
These band students have pep rally songs learned by early in the school year, and according to band director Patrick Blackburn, their middle school music program has tripled in the past three years, partly through gaining interest at events like these. 
Now that Blackburn’s been at Githens for three years, he’s about to watch his eighth-graders transition to high school.
“These eighth-graders were my babies,” he said, adding that his students took the reins when performing at the expo that morning. “They took over without me, conducting, they got it.”
Eileen Hartwell, a middle school area facilitator who’s been with Durham Public Schools since 1978, said she remembers being “a little afraid” for her children when they were about to graduate into sixth grade.
“I was an elementary school teacher then, so they went to school with me,” Hartwell said.
Dorie Hall, also a DPS middle school area facilitator, said they tend to receive a lot of questions from parents about course offerings and the change in class schedule.
“It’s exciting to be able to provide a snapshot of middle school to parents and answer any questions,” she said.