Days before classes started, Highland Park High School was already flooded with activity — and freshmen. Fish Camp was back in session.
For the past decade, Fish Camp has helped orient rising freshmen and new upperclassmen to student life.
Members of Highland Park’s Ambassadors program, along with student volunteers, help freshmen take ID photos, find schedules, and learn to navigate through the high school’s daunting labyrinth of hallways.
Candice Conner, sponsor of both the Fish Camp and Ambassadors program, said the former serves a vital role for new students.
“The purpose of Fish Camp is to make sure that every freshman and new upperclassman enters the school the first day feeling safe, secure, supported, and at home,” she said.
One of the many students who made this year’s Fish Camp a reality was senior ambassador Calli Maroulis, who has served on the program for three years. As other counselors and freshmen left to enjoy their final days of summer, Calli stayed to help freshman Chandler Palladino, who was new to the district.
“He didn’t have his ID number, he didn’t have his schedule, he didn’t have anything,” Calli said. “He just came in with his name and group number.”
Calli had already led a morning and an afternoon group, but she continued to bound through the hallways of the high school with the same enthusiasm as before, guiding Chandler through the orientation process, from schedules to locker combinations.
“I really want to be a good face for this program and be able to help people understand what a great school Highland Park is,” she said. She took as much time as was needed to make sure Chandler would begin his school year as smoothly as possible.
“The purpose of Fish Camp is to make sure that every freshman and new upperclassman enters the school the first day feeling safe, secure, supported, and at home.”
“It’s the small things,” she said. “I could be home taking a nap right now, but it’s good to be here and helping someone.”
Chandler, who had just moved from Frisco to University Park, responded to the school, and Calli, with the same enthusiasm.
“She loves this, and she’s very invested in it,” he said.
Calli thinks Fish Camp is about leaving a legacy.
“You keep the chain going — if my freshmen liked how I helped them out, hopefully they’ll do the same one day,” she said. “I have two little brothers, and I hope that when they are freshmen they have good Fish Camp counselors that take the time to show them around, because I’ll be in college.”
Calli sums up the spirit of the program in a single piece of advice.
“Try and fail,” she said. “Don’t be discouraged by something that doesn’t work, because there will always be something else.”
Spencer Allan is a Junior at Highland Park High School