By Greater Atlanta Christian School
When you ask adults what their greatest fears are, typically the most popular responses are heights, public speaking and death. Well for most adolescents, moving might be at the top of the list. Having to switch schools and find new friends can be a harrowing thought. No parent looks forward to putting their child through the stress of leaving their home and changing schools, but sometimes life happens, and a family must relocate for a new job, a family responsibility or another circumstance. The good news is that this decision can result in positive changes. Of course, choosing the right school for your child plays an important role in the move.
Here in Atlanta, there are many schools to choose from—public schools, independent schools, faith-based independent schools, charter schools and more. You’ll want to look for one that provides solid academics, extracurricular activities, school culture and community. You also should seek a “right-fit” school for your child. Do you have an artist or musician? Does your child thrive with academic rigor? How about athletics? Do you have a service-minded child who would enjoy faith-based education? Look for a school that offers a chance for your student to shine or grow in an area of interest both inside and out of the classroom. It’s so important to choose a school with the ability to cater to your child’s individual needs.
For instance, Victoria Bilik, a junior at Greater Atlanta Christian School (GAC) relocated to Atlanta from Jacksonville, Florida, while a high school sophomore. Her father’s job and aging grandparents brought her family to Lawrenceville, and Victoria had to move during winter break, making the switch to GAC midway through the school year. Naturally, Victoria was filled with trepidation at the thought of leaving her friends and starting fresh. “I was so afraid that I’d get here, and everyone would have their friend groups and I’d be alone,” she recalls. “I thought people wouldn’t be interested in the new kid.”
Fortunately, Victoria was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to transition to life as a GAC student. She says, “I actually found it [to be] a good experience. I like meeting new people. No one made me feel out of place, and everyone was welcoming. I was really nervous that it was going to be hard being new. I ended up feeling really welcomed. I made friends really fast.”
Today, Victoria runs on the track and field team and says she might try tennis next. The school offers 70 athletic and academic teams, so she has a variety of opportunities available to her. For your own student, choose a school that offers a wide variety of programs and activities. In addition, be sure that the campus itself is convenient, safe and well cared for. Your student will spend a great deal of time at school, so you should feel comfortable with your student's new school home. If you can arrive in town in the summertime, get students involved with their new school before the year begins. Even when students have outgrown traditional full-day summer camps, many schools offer enrichment camps that focus solely on an area of interest for teenagers, such as the arts or sports. This opportunity gives new students a chance to make new friends before school commences.
What’s more, consider what your family values in an education. Choose a school with a vibrant, creative faculty who will pour into your child for these important years. More than just academics, a school should challenge its students to model exemplary behavior, character and growth through challenge and hard work. Be sure that the teacher-to-student ratio is low so that your child can receive the feedback, nurturing and instruction that suits his or her needs on a daily basis. Victoria found this to be true at GAC. “The teachers here care about their students,” she notes. “You’re more than a number. Here everyone is very inclusive, and it’s just a good environment to learn in.”
Remember that campus life isn’t just about the students. For example, at GAC, entire families are strengthened in this one-of-a kind community environment where prayer, praise and worship are daily privileges. The parent association (referred to as the GPA) supports students and teachers, raises money for projects together, hosts school-wide community and service events and worships together.
What the best advice for students who are moving? Victoria says, “Take a deep breath, and it probably won’t be as bad as you thought. By the second week, I felt comfortable and already found friends. Don’t be so nervous. It really was not that bad.” Far from feeling ignored, Victoria found that students were friendly and open to meeting new people. She said that she was surprised at how easy the transition was. And as an unexpected perk, Victoria found out she also prefers the weather and city life in Atlanta!
For more information, visit greateratlantachristian.org.