Upper and Middle School Students get a Smart Start to 2022

Last week, members of the Friends School community returned to campus for the annual Smart Start program. Over the course of four days, new Middle and Upper School students learned the lay of the land, visited their classrooms, met their faculty advisors and played icebreaker games. It was an opportunity for some of our newest friends to spend time with each other and their teachers before returning students joined the fun. As one student said, “It (Smart Start) was so much fun. We hung out in the Middle School, tried our lockers, and got to meet with our advisor. It made me feel less nervous about school and excited to start.”

The Smart Start program was set in motion in 2006 by alumnus Mark Reid ’10 when he was a rising ninth grader. Reflecting on his own Friends School experience and those of his classmates, Mark observed that entering a new school could be stressful, particularly for Middle School students. Mark thought about the advantages of providing “new kids” with a bit of extra care and attention prior to the school year and shared this idea with his father, Vernon. At the time, the Reid family was looking for opportunities to support the School with their annual gift. Thus, the seeds of Smart Start were sown. 

The orientation program was designed to help Friends School students new to grades 6-8 acclimate to their new environment, make new friends, and get a sense of the Middle School’s challenging academic program before returning students and faculty arrive on campus. 

In the years since its inception, Smart Start has paved the way for hundreds of Friends Middle Schoolers, and the Reid family has generously endowed the Middle School program to ensure incoming students will reap the benefits far into the future. The program has also expanded to the Upper School.

In a recent interview, Mark said, “Friends is different from other places – it’s academically rigorous, which I’m very proud of, but there are cultural aspects that students have to get used to, like Meeting for Worship, Collection and the idea of reflection. Combine this with the social aspects of a transition, and it can all snowball for new students. I loved my time at Friends and I wanted others to love it as well.”