Four years ago, Taylor Mathis, Chris Mack and Sam Smith nervously attended the freshman orientation at where upperclassmen demonstrated what the magnet school in Upper Roxborugh had to offer. On Tuesday, the seniors returned the gesture and joined fellow classmates and staff in welcoming nearly 170 new students.
"I remember what my orientation was like. We were all so scared. It's great to be a part of it today," Mathis said.
After the School District of Philadelphia , Lankenau prepares to add on to its 277 students from last year when school returns Sept. 9.
Annually, the Lankenau family invites parents and new students, mostly freshman, to familiarize themselves with the school and its standards. This week, parents broke off into workshops about being involved, prepping for college, and participating in Lankenau's travel program—this year to France and Austria.
Students, meanwhile, performed ice breakers and toured their new school. Upperclassmen and staff led team-building activities to get students more comfortable.
"It's important for the students to see the school before the first day. They can get to know each other, and see who our partners are," Principal Karen Dean said.
Mack, from Germantown, is a rising tennis star with Legacy Youth Tennis and Education, formerly Arthur Ashe, in East Falls. He said the orientation and French teacher Thomas Wolfinger, the event's coordinator, were vital for him to become part of the school.
"If you feel safe where you are, it all works easier. People helped me out a lot, and it's good to do the same thing for the new students," he said.
Teacher Amelia Baker showed parents a clip from the film Stand and Deliver—a 1988 film about an East Los Angeles math teacher—and led a discussion about parental involvement.
"People chimed in with their own shared experiences... The film does a good job of letting parents know they should have expectations for their children and should set the bar high," she said.
Wolfinger, a French teacher and winner of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, said parents at the open house learn what's in store at Lankenau.
"We explain what it means to be at our school and that you children are going to college. So how can you help them get there?" he said.
In addition to the travel abroad program Wolfinger leads, Lankenau partners with the Girl Scouts of America, YMCA, Philadelphia Water Department and Eat Right Now. In addition, students participate in athletics with Germantown High School, which also had representatives on hand Tuesday.
Dean's biggest goal for the 2012-13 school year—aside from assimilating the new students into Lankenau and getting them to focus on academics—is forming better partnerships with the community.
For more information on Lankenau, visit the school's website here.