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Sixth grade students Level Up with Gilbert Public Schools

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 Five students, two boys and three girls, pose outside Desert Ridge Junior High School for a photo.

 It is an exciting time for GPS sixth graders, because January kicks off Level Up with Gilbert Public Schools. The special selection of events and resources are designed to support our sixth graders and their families in learning more about the Junior High experience.

Level Up Days are an opportunity for GPS sixth graders to visit their future Junior High during the school day to experience the campus and learn more about what Junior High has to offer. Each of our elementary school sixth graders will enjoy an on-campus experience where they visit classrooms, tour the campus, and experience lunch in a Junior High cafeteria. Transportation is provided.


“I think it is important with the Level Up Days that they get a little more acclimated and just see that they can talk to teachers. They are approachable. It’s not so scary. It is a big change from elementary school, but it is still a family here,” said Lisa Knapp, an eighth grade counselor at Desert Ridge Junior High School.

The Junior High experience is unique, because students are only on the campus for two years before they make the transition to high school. The short amount of time means staff and students have to work together to build a family atmosphere.


“We’re all about kids. We’re all about relationships. Each day these kids come here from a thousand different households, and we’ve got two quick years to get them to understand and celebrate their differences,” said Principal Mike Davis.

Isabella Romero knew a lot of students coming into the school, but she ended up not having any classes with her core group of friends. Level Up Days allowed her to get to know her new classmates.


“Making new friends helped me a lot. I just met a bunch of new people and personalities that I was never used to. It felt really great,” Romero said.


A big transition like switching schools can bring on a lot of emotions for students, so our Junior High Schools are providing support, guidance, and resources. Alejandro Esquivel, a seventh grader at Desert Ridge Junior High, says he came into the school very excited and curious.


“I wanted to meet a lot of new people and learn a lot of new things, but I just didn’t know how to do that. I was also excited for a new environment, new people, and especially new food. Lunch is better here than in elementary,” Esquivel said.


Junior High has a lot to offer students academically, including a wide range of elective courses. Desert Ridge Junior High is recognized as an AVID school, which means teachers implement the college and career readiness program into their classrooms to help put students on the path to success.


“I enjoy AVID a lot. It’s an elective that you can choose for seventh or eighth grade, and I think it is a really fun class,” said Reece DeCorte, a seventh grade student.

Level Up with Gilbert Public Schools. Visit gilbertschools.net/levelup to learn more!
Tours of the junior high school campuses on Level Up Days can help students get accustomed to their new environment. At Desert Ridge Junior High, sixth grade students get to spend 15 minutes in each core classroom on their Level Up Day, which they say can make a huge difference  


“I was actually very relieved, because I got to get a tour of the campus. I remembered some of the classrooms, because I went to them during the game. I ended up having a couple of those classes and teachers, and I thought that was really cool,” said Trent Hale, a seventh grade student.


Level Up Days also foster peer support, where current students are able to pass on advice to sixth graders. They encourage all incoming Junior High students to step outside of their comfort zone.


“The first few days are going to feel really awkward, but that’s going to change,” said seventh grader, Kaitlin Murdock, “Be yourself. That’s the best thing that I can say.”

As well as Level Up Days, sixth grade students and their families can attend upcoming Junior High Family Preview Nights. Preview Nights are a perfect opportunity to visit a Junior High campus, meet the principal, teachers, and staff, learn all about the different courses and electives offered, and tour the campus. If you are unable to attend a Family Preview Night, you can reach out directly to any of our Junior Highs and schedule a tour at a time that works for you.


To learn more about Level Up Days, our Junior High Family Preview nights, and other resources to support the transition to Junior High, visit the Level Up section of our website and schedule a school tour today!

Written by Kailey Latham, Photos by Jonason Pauley