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Cuero freshmen get their first taste of high school

By Carolina Astrain
Aug. 18, 2012 at 3:18 a.m.

Professional dog handler Roy Burris introduced incoming freshmen to his dog Wilson and demonstrated how the dog can easily detect alcohol and illegal drugs during Cuero High School's Fish Camp.

CUERO - Teens dressed in a sea of green and blue tees amassed in the Cuero High School cafeteria Thursday morning.

A total of 151 students showed up for their first day of Fish Camp, otherwise known as freshmen orientation. This year, the freshman class broke the class size record by 31 students with 175 students enrolled.

In its seventh year, the camp is designed to get the new high school students acclimated to the school and policies, help them relax and meet new friends.

"I remember being scared to death," said Rhonda Patek, the camp's coordinator, recalling her first day of high school. "By the second day of camp, the students will be a lot more at ease and you can tell that they're ready for the start of the year."

The Cuero school district pays for the camp, said Michael Cavanaugh, Cuero High School principal.

Students were split into groups, each group named by after different species of fish.

Sloan Vaught, Courtney Clark and Jacob Helweg, all 14, were placed in the blue marlin group.

"Watch out, don't let a shark eat you," said Jacob, as the students made their way to the first workshop.

Sloan and Courtney had just finished volleyball practice. Courtney wore a green sparkly headband and Sloan was dressed in a gray, long-sleeve jacket and ankle-length sweat pants.

"Aren't you hot in that?" Jacob teased.

As the blue marlins settled into their first round of Gobbler Jeopardy, 17-year-old Kayla Hutchings sat against the wall whispering the answers to herself.

Kayla, a junior, attended the camp to better familiarize herself with the school. Kayla moved to Cuero in June from Mineral Wells, a city outside of Dallas.

"I'm kind of shy," Kayla said. "I don't know a bunch of people here, but other than that, it's not so bad."

Sitting a few feet away was Ryan Garcia, 14, who was getting into the game.

"Cha-ching!" Ryan exclaimed after winning a few points. "I really want to win a lollipop."

Ryan, along with Jacob, just joined the freshmen football team.

"I want to go far in football," Ryan said.

Next up was the drug dog workshop, where dog handler Roy Burris introduced his dog, Wilson, to the freshmen class.

One by one, Wilson detected and pointed out locations where Burris had hid small bottles of alcohol and a metal case of marijuana.

"We have to invest into our kids, and prepare them for each stage of life," said Ken McCarthy, a case manager at the Cuero school district. "Us being adults, we've already been down these roads, it's our responsibility to teach them."

McCarthy spent the afternoon getting kids into line for the goggles test that simulated the effects of alcohol. They attempted to drive a go-cart while wearing the goggles.

"I couldn't put foot to foot," 14-year-old Donovan Cardenes said. "My feet moved left to right and I kind of stumbled. I couldn't walk straight at all."

Kids hit orange road cones with their go-carts while riding with Cuero Police Department officers.

Cavanaugh said he had about 10 people from his staff working to get the freshmen acclimated to the Gobbler way.

"I don't want them going to school with a lump in their stomach," Cavanaugh said. "It's just something that has to be done."



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