By Jennifer Misthal
“I'm sort of nervous, but I guess it's something to look forward to,” Katz said, adding that since her friends are split between Cardozo and specialized high schools throughout the borough, she's eager to meet people from different schools.Cardozo has already held an orientation for incoming students, telling soon-to-be freshmen what they can expect and having them follow seniors through the school, learning where the cafeteria and library are located. And Katz already has an idea of what classes she will be taking this academic year.As she anticipates her first day as a freshman, Katz compares the transition from Nathaniel Hawthorne Junior High School to Cardozo with the one she made years earlier, when she was entering junior high.”The transition from elementary to middle school was hard, so I know this is going to be tough. I'm willing to just go for it. I'm actually excited,” said Katz, who lives in Bayside. “It's something I'm excited for and scared for at the same time.”Like her daughter, Nilda Gomez-Katz is not apprehensive about Amanda's adjustment to a foreign, new high school environment this fall. Gomez-Katz is an assistant principal at Long Island City High School, where there are two orientations for incoming students and their parents, as they prepare to make the leap into the four-year stretch of high school. Orientation is a time for explaining school rules and introducing administrators to a fresh crop of students and parents, Gomez-Katz said.The first year of high school is a critical time for students that can even predict a student's academic future, she said. “We explain to students and parents ninth grade is the most challenging grade. It's the grade that determines whether or not a student will drop out of school. That is the grade that shows the most absences. It is the toughest time for adolescents. It's the time to do outreach and intervention,” she said. The best way to ensure a smooth transition into students' new academic environment is active parent involvement, Gomez-Katz said.”It doesn't mean that just because they're 14, 15 years old … they're fully responsible. You still have to be on top of them,” she advises parents. While she acknowledges parents are often forced to juggle jobs with child rearing, Gomez-Katz stressed the need for parents to remain involved in their children's life.”You just have to keep open communication. You can be your daughter or son's friend. Let him or her know that whatever problems they face, that they can always come to you, no matter what,” Gomez-Katz said. “It's extremely important to have open communication with your children. My daughter never feels afraid to come to me for anything.”Long Island City High School is taking some steps to treat the more than 1,000 new ninth-graders as mature adults. Like in college classes, teachers distribute class outlines or syllabi, telling students what to anticipate in the coming year. Often, these must be signed by a parent, thereby initiating parents' involvement in their children's high school careers.As students head back to the classroom this fall, they'll have to make a stop for school supplies along the way. While most high schools do not hand out supply lists, certain items are universal, such as binders and pens, though some basic items have received new looks.Students taking calculus, advanced placement classes or standardized tests will notice the TI-83, Texas Instrument's flagship graphing calculator, which has been revamped; in addition to basic black, it is now available in green, purple and blue.During the back-to-school shopping season, according to office supply retailer Staples, families spend an average $174 on school supplies.Reach editorial intern Jennifer Misthel by e-mail at email@example.com.