KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — For the children of servicemembers, moving from school to school and making new friends every two to three years is difficult. And for some, making the transition from middle school to high school is an even bigger adjustment.

Kaiserslautern High School has recognized the need to help ninth-graders adjust to high school with its Freshmen Academy. The program, which began this year, helps students with everything from good study habits and tutoring to getting involved in school activities.

“You go from being the top dog in one school to being at the bottom at the next school,” said Clinton Robinson, math teacher, football coach and freshman class dean. “For a lot of kids, that’s a culture shock in itself.”

With many students who have parents deployed, the program comes at an important time, Robinson said.

“The kids have to deal with the security issues [and] they deal with the issues of the war, which is more realistic for them,” he said.

The 165 freshmen in this year’s class have been assigned two class sponsors, in addition to Robinson, who coordinate meetings, teach study and organizational skills and act as liaisons between parents, students and teachers.

“We’re trying to turn around patterns of behavior that have been going on for a long time,” said Molly O’Donnell, freshman class counselor and sponsor. “And a lot of times they’ve been able to cope … and people just write it up as a discipline problem.”

An orientation day before the first day of school and class meetings throughout the school year help keep a pulse on how students are doing. Fixing problems before they grow into bigger issues is the program’s approach.

“Our whole rule is to be proactive instead of reactive,” Robinson said.

And it appears to be working, said Kaiserslautern High School principal Dan Mendoza. Freshmen disciplinary referrals are down about 20 percent, he said.

“A lot of times ninth-graders just get lost in the shuffle — they fall through the cracks,” O’Donnell said. “I love nothing better than to see the smiles on their faces when they realize it’s going to be OK; ‘I’m going to live through this.’”

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