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Tiger Crew makes newcomers feel welcome

Tiger Crew members Cole Birch (left) and Honor Davis pose while wearing their orange Tiger Crew T-shirts and holding one of the water-bottles every new student gets when they start school at the New Richmond Middle School. (Photo by Jordan Willi)

New students enroll all year long at most schools throughout the country. But, unlike most schools, the New Richmond Middle School has seen a 41-student bump in its population through the end of the first semester.

“The number of students does fluctuate each year. We usually see a spike around the start of the year, after the holiday break and then again in late spring as families have moved due to new jobs in area,” said New Richmond Middle School principal Doug Hatch. “On average I would say we see a total of 25-30 new students.”

In order to make the transition of the new students to a different building and school district easier, the middle school put together the Tiger Crew, a group of students from the sixth- to eighth-grade who help new students learn the ropes and help them navigate the halls of the middle school.

“A number of years ago, we saw there was a need for getting the kids introduced to the building, the schedule and meeting new people,” said K-8 Gifted and Talented Coordinator Jodi Markowski. “So, we built a team that can do that as well as provide student tours and assistants for new kids. Adults who come to the school also get a tour from the Tiger Crew kids.”

The program got its start four years ago, just before the new middle school was opened. In general, there are 8-10 students per grade level who take part in Tiger Crew every year. Depending on the number of students who are needed every semester and year, Markowski and co-Tiger Crew leader Amanda Altmann, who is the school counselor, will add more kids to the Tiger Crew ranks.

“The students are trained in the summer before their sixth-grade year and they continue with training all the way through the end of eighth grade,” Markowski said. “The eighth-graders assist with the sixth-grade orientation, which is a huge thing every summer.”

One of the many duties a Tiger Crew member may have to perform includes going through a new students schedule, show them their lockers and take them on a general tour of the whole school. 

“We also explain all the activities a new student can do throughout the year depending on their grade level,” said eighth-grade Tiger Crew member Cole Birch. “In sixth grade, you can’t really do that much, but in seventh and eighth grade you can do a lot more, especially when it comes to sports.”

Lunch time, which can be one of the more confusing times for a new student, is another area where Tiger Crew members step in to help out when needed.

“We also go through the lunch line with them so that they understand what to do during lunch,” said Tiger Crew member Honor Davis, an eighth-grader at the middle school.

Both Davis and Birch were asked to join Tiger Crew and neither of them have regretted their choice to put on the orange shirt that every member wears to allow students and teachers to identify them as Tiger Crew members.

“A lot of my friends are in the group, and I enjoy getting to help out the new sixth-graders,” Birch said. “I had a really positive experience with my orientation and I wanted to continue that with the new sixth-graders.”

For Davis, the best part of being a member of Tiger Crew is that she gets to meet new people and help out the new students with their transition to the middle school.

“Being able to meet the new kids and just helping them go through their day is the best part for me,” Davis said. “I really like being part of it and I’ve made a few good friends through giving tours.”

Even though the school has seen a larger influx of new students that it normally does, Principal Hatch and the rest of the school have been adjusting well to the change.

“It really hasn't affected what we do other than we are transitioning more kids into our NRMS community. Class sizes are staying pretty consistent by grade,” Hatch said. “We do have couple of classes that are larger than we would like, but the staff does a great job with those outliers. We are a growing school district, which is a good thing, and our staff and students do a great job of making our new students feel as comfortable as they can, answering questions and assisting them with the transition.”

A Tiger Crew member’s biggest task during a tour or any other kind of interaction with a new student is being able to answer the wide variety of questions each new student might have. And, for the most part, Birch and his fellow Tiger Crew members know everything there is to know about the school and what goes on inside.

“I like the new kids’ questions, honestly,” Birch said. “When they are asking questions, they learn more about the building and I learn more about it, as well as how everything works, through their questions. Usually I know the answers and there aren’t a lot of questions that are too far out there that I can’t answer.”

Above all else, every member of Tiger Crew does what they can to make sure every new student, teacher or visiting adult is able to find where they need to go and make sure that the transition to the new building and school community is as easy as possible.

“The Tiger Crew are great ambassadors for NRMS. As a new student coming in, it is much easier in most cases, to ask your questions of another student your own age (kid world vs. adult) as opposed to an adult,” Hatch said. “In my time here, and with the Tiger Crew, we have very few if any kids that do not feel welcome coming into NRMS. To me that is a testament to our students and staff.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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