Ricardo Alberto helping a Liberty Bell student

Route 2023 hoping to make road to graduation smoother for rising-freshmen


Science Hill sophomore Ricardo Alberto recalls the halls of Liberty Bell Middle School as if it was yesterday. He remembers his team and teachers, but he also recollects a feeling of uncertainty that surrounded his transition from Liberty Bell to Science Hill High School.

Today, Alberto and other Science Hill students navigate the halls of Liberty Bell as mentors, helping students with homework, classwork and being a group that can help ease fears for rising freshmen who are about to make the leap to high school.

“If I just would have had some older people that would have talked to me and told me that I should be working hard in my classes or I should improve my behavior, it would have been a lot easier,” Alberto said. “I just hope that when these students come to Science Hill, it won’t be as shocking, just because they will have some familiar faces and they can always just talk to me.”

Establishing mentors and making 8th-graders and their families aware of everything that Science Hill has to offer has been a goal for Route 2023, a new program started by Liberty Bell counselor Traci Honeycutt to help bridge the gap between Liberty Bell Middle School and Science Hill High School.

Liberty Bell principal Dr. Donna Morgan said that she was thrilled when Honeycutt approached her about starting Route 2023 to help ease the transition for 8th-graders to high school.

“When I talk with our 8th-graders about going on to high school, many of them have a mix of excitement and anticipation, fear and anxiety,” Morgan said. “We want to help alleviate as many of those fears as possible.  We are focusing on procedural changes, social changes and academic changes the students will experience.”

Honeycutt spent the past decade as a counselor at Science Hill and has a keen understanding of what students need to know as they make the transition between the two campuses.

“Each student has an individual road to graduation and we want to make sure that each student’s road is what they want it to be,” Honeycutt said. “They’ll see bumps along the way and they’ll see curves in the road. They’ll see some straightaways and there’ll be some smooth paths, but there will also be potholes and other obstacles on their road to graduation. We want to make sure they are prepared for every twist and turn that might come their way.”

The Liberty Bell administration and staff have been preparing student by exposing them to different opportunities at Science Hill like the vocational options including welding, cosmetology, construction, criminal justice and much more. Honeycutt has taken time to visit classes and talk about honors classes, advanced placement classes and dual-enrollment opportunities for students at Science Hill. They also plan on taking each 8th grade student to the CareerQuest in April for career exploration with local industry leaders.

Liberty Bell has also hosted multiple colleges from the Southeast and each of the local higher education institutions, including TCAT, Northeast State and ETSU, to get students comfortable with postsecondary opportunities after high school.

“There is great value in our middle school students knowing all of the different opportunities they have at the high school before they get there,” Honeycutt said. “That way they are asking the right questions and they understand the work ethic they have to put in place if they want to be successful.”

Liberty Bell teachers spend time helping students understand good study habits and preparing students mentally for the transition, but the big question that Honeycutt says that she gets is “How do I get my student ready for high school?”

“You put your seatbelt on and you ride right beside your child in that vehicle with them,” Honeycutt said “You ask those questions as a parent and a family. You have to be supportive and you have to get involved. The high school staff wants parent involvement and they want parents to embrace that time with their student. There is something in that large high school for every student.”