It's 7:30 a.m., four days before the start of a new school year.
Outside Eureka High School, music blares from a set of speakers, and teenagers wearing multi-colored outfits dance on the steps at one of the entrances to the building.
A steady stream of cars approaches as parents drop off their children for freshmen student orientation. As nervous students exit those vehicles, they are enthusiastically greeted by members of the Eureka High E!Crew, who welcome them with shouts, high-fives and hugs.
Welcome to the Eureka High "friendly" Freshman Gauntlet. It's likely not the greeting expected by a class of students that historically hopes to fly under the radar for their first year of high school.
"What a fantastic way to welcome our new freshmen to Eureka High," said Rockwood Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles, who said this was a very different experience than being a freshman used to be. "I know when I became a freshman, it was very quiet and subdued. This is a fantastic way to begin a new school year."
"It's important to greet them with smiles," said Eureka senior and E!Crew member Grace Wagner. "They need to know to be really true to themselves and have a great time in high school."
Her fellow E!Crew member Jeremy Peters agreed.
"We want to show them Eureka is a welcoming community and they are family now," said Peters.
Eureka High Principal Charlie Crouther characterized the friendly Freshman Gauntlet.
"They will learn they have more friends than they thought they did," said Crouther. "They'll be very comfortable around staff and older students who will give them a tour today and show them all they'll need to know about Eureka High. They are welcome here."
"I was shocked," said Eureka freshman Blake Gard, who added that walking through the gauntlet of upperclassmen and staff members made him feel welcome. "It was overwhelming in a good way."
"I was not expecting there to be so much excitement," said Lillian Pfaffmann, another freshman. "I saw friends and met new people."
Eureka teacher Jenni Highfill added, "I think it brings a lot of energy and relieves students' nerves. We want to set the tone that this is a positive place to come to, every day."