Rising sixth grader Madeline Vinal is excited about the new opportunities that her first year of middle school will bring, and a little nervous at the same time.

“I like that we’ll have different classes for different subjects,” she said.

Madeline is also looking forward to being able to play an instrument and hopes to learn the saxophone. But new experiences also bring some apprehension.

“I’m excited but I don’t want to be late going to my new classes,” she said.

Madeline wasn’t the only one with mixed emotions.

Dean Sweeting will be among her classmates when they begin the new school year at Swansboro Middle School. He’s looking forward to learning to play the trumpet and making new friends.

“I’m excited to be going to a new school and making new friends,” Dean said.

What makes him nervous?

“Going to a new school,” he added.

Madeline and Dean were among the Swansboro Middle School students who got a preview of the school during a Thursday orientation.

In addition to the open houses held before school starts, Onslow County Schools holds special orientations districtwide for rising sixth graders and rising freshmen and many of the schools do kindergarten orientations, said Onslow County Schools Public Information Officer Suzie Ulbrich.

“These give students a snapshot of what is expected of them and eases jitters because they are a little bit familiar with the campus and the staff,” Ulbrich said. “During these sessions the students also get to ask questions they might have and find out what opportunities there will be once they start school.”

At Swansboro Middle School, members of the school’s student leadership team took on the task of introducing rising sixth graders to the school.

As parents gathered in the auditorium for a presentation, the students headed to the next building where they rotated around classrooms where rising eighth graders provided information on a variety of subjects, including school clubs and activities, managing the lunch period, bullying and how to report incidents, the dress codes and other school policies. There were also team building and organizing tips and a tour of the school.

Eighth grader Kelly Opperman helped lead a session on the dress code, which she said is an issue for all students but rising sixth graders need to know before they arrive for the first day.

One of the biggest issues, particularly coming off of summer vacation, is the policy on wearing shorts.

“Shorts are a big thing. They can’t be more than three inches above the knee. The same for skirts and dresses,” Kelly said.

The student leadership team prepared all the presentations and organized Thursday’s event.

Kelly said it helps when students hear from their peers.

“I think sometimes it’s hard for teachers to get students’ attention. It can be easier to talk to students because we’re the same age,” she said.

Kelly said the transition can be scary but she said that rising sixth graders should stay positive and know they’ll adjust quickly.

“We were there at one point and know how they are feeling,” Kelly said.

If new students have questions they should be afraid to ask a teacher or someone for assistance.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to ask a teacher questions. You should feel at home here,” Kelly added.

The sixth graders won’t be the only ones making a transition this year.

Principal Helen Gross has moved from Carolina Forest Elementary School to Swansboro Middle School for her eighth year as a principal with Onslow County Schools.

“I’m so excited to be here and to be a part of the Swansboro community,” Gross said.

Gross credited the student leadership for organizing the orientation event and said they want to be sure the new students are equipped with the skills they need for a successful middle school year, both academically and as students overall.

“We want them to be serious about school and focused on academics but we also want school to be fun. We have a lot of clubs and activities here and ways to be active and involved,” she said.