New school years include new students, new clothes, school supplies and at times new teachers like Gina Tonarelli who is the new freshman-sophomore class counselor and activities director at Riverbank High School.
After a very busy Homecoming week at RHS and the first homecoming week that she has ever planned, Tonarelli expressed that the kids worked really hard and it turned out great.
“We got it all together (for homecoming week),” stated Tonarelli. “They were great at helping me learn all the little details that I did not know about necessarily and all the Riverbank traditions so they were really good about keeping on top of what we needed to start planning, when we needed to start working on things, and letting me know who I needed to contact or they would make contacts themselves.”
Homecoming week at RHS includes a week full of events including a fashion show the week prior to give the students an example of what to wear during the various theme dress days of the week.
The leadership class creates festive lunchtime activities for students to participate in, along with a rally, and a parade.
With the new track this year, Tonarelli and the leadership class had to stimulate new ideas because the floats would not be allowed to be driven on the new track. After brainstorming the options, she posed decorating golf carts to the class and they were all on board. The golf carts were allowed on the track at halftime of the varsity football game.
Tonarelli secured two golf carts from the Riverbank Unified School District and had two more golf carts donated for use during the special event.
“That was a little last minute planning and we really had to think outside the box,” added Tonarelli. “I think it went really good especially for my first year planning something like that.”
Each class had a chance to decorate their golf cart which included one that was transformed into a tank.
One lunchtime activity had to be canceled due to rain and during the rally they ran a little ahead of schedule so they had to do some quick fill in acts. This led to a dance off between RHS Principal Sean Richey and Economics Teacher John Tivald.
“I am really thankful for the kids and a lot of staff here on campus really pitched in and helped out a lot,” stated Tonarelli. “So that really saved me.
“Everyone was just so willing to help that it couldn’t have gone any better.”
Another event that the leadership organized under the direction of Tonarelli was “Pink Out” Day which encouraged all students to wear pink. October is known as breast cancer awareness month and to support that cause RHS celebrated by wearing pink on Friday, Oct. 16. The leadership class also had a table with notes that students could fill out with hopeful, cheerful messages for women that have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The notes will be taken to local hospitals in the area and given to the women.
After working for the City of Turlock’s Recreation Department for approximately eight years running the after school program, Tonarelli said she knew that she wanted to work with students and in education. She also has 600 hours of counseling internships that she did at CSU Stanislaus, Turlock Jr. High, Sipherd Elementary in Modesto, and Turlock High School.
“I had a great experience with my high school counselor, that is who I interned with too at the high school and so I knew that she did a great job for me and I knew that I wanted to work with students and I thought it would be a great fit.”
Tonarelli attended CSU Stanislaus and did her undergrad work in Sociology and Psychology along with a Master’s in Education school counseling.
Not knowing much about Riverbank, during the new hire orientation provided by the district, Tonarelli and others received a tour of the town including a visit to all the other schools, different community establishments, neighborhoods to see the houses and finally ended up with ice cream at Sno White Drive-in.
“It has been really great so far, everyone has been so welcoming and helpful,” expressed Tonarelli. “I have really enjoyed everything so far with Riverbank and I couldn’t be happier for my first full-time job in the field that I want to be in. It has been great.”