Remember those first weeks of your freshman year in high school? For many, it’s time spent getting the lay of the land, forming that circle of best friends and adjusting to the expectations of new courses.

Longview’s R.A. Long students got a jump start on the process and are settling in nicely thanks to Jack Camp, a two-day orientation held at the end of August.

“It makes a big difference going from middle school to high school,” said sophomore Eastyn Reeves, who attended Jack Camp in 2015 and helped lead a group of freshmen this year. “It helps every kid not be scared.”

Led primarily by leadership students and staff, Jack Camp included tours of the school, spirit assemblies, a scavenger hunt and rotations through 13 stations. New students learned everything from how to open their lockers to how to take notes to what they need to do to graduate.

“Jack Camp just made me more relaxed for the first day and excited to start high school,” said freshman Blake Nixon. “I met a lot of kids I’d never have talked to, but it turned out we had lots in common and grew to be close friends.”

Freshman friends Ada Beasley, Maricela Galvan and Simone Poole pose with Mr. Long.

This was the third year for Jack Camp, and enthusiasm was high. All but 16 of the class’s 244 students participated, plus a large number of staff and students volunteered to help.

“People see the value of getting these kids started with the right tone and getting to know them before school starts,” said assistant principal Lacey Griffiths.

Recalling how he felt “down in the dumps” when he started at R.A. Long, sophomore Saige Raymond asked to stand before the incoming freshmen and share what he had learned.

“I wanted to give them some advice and tell them they’re not alone. Everybody’s new here, and there’s no reason not to be yourself,” he said. “I just wanted to inspire them to do great things at R.A. Long.”

A few weeks into the school year, freshman friends Ada Beasley, Maricela Galvan and Simone Poole reflected that Jack Camp helped them get comfortable with R.A. Long right away, and inspired them to get involved with various clubs and to attend early sports matches.

“I think we were pretty prepared because of Jack Camp,” Simone said. “It really taught us everything we needed to know and helped us feel more assured going into high school.”

Jack Camp has been partially sponsored the past two years by the estate of Dr. Doug O’Connor, the late Longview dentist and Longview School Board member, who was an alumnus of R.A. Long High School.