August 28. 2013 12:31AM

Hassan helps welcome freshmen at Nashua South.

By Barbara Taormina
Union Leader Correspondent

Upperclassmen at Nashua High South, who gave up their last day of summer vacation to help out at freshman orientation, listen as Gov. Maggie Hassan speaks to the Class of 2017. (Barbara Taormina)

NASHUA — Gov. Maggie Hassan shared a little secret Tuesday morning with Nashua High South’s Class of 2017.

“I failed chemistry in college,” said Hassan who was in the city helping the school kick off a full day of freshman orientation. But Hassan didn’t give up on atoms.

“You stick with it, and you succeed,” she said adding that freshmen should try a lot of things and collaborate with one another over the next year.

After a long hot summer, Nashua schools welcomed back thousands of students Tuesday morning with similar words of advice and encouragement.

“The first three days are getting-to-know-you days; we have some fun and play some games,” said Harriet Perry, a second-grade teacher at Main Dunstable Elementary School. “Next Monday, we get going.”Kids throughout the city seemed happy to be back at their neighborhood schools with teachers and friends.Brothers Saim and Assad Chaudhry said they were excited about starting first and third grade at Main Dunstable, although their mom, Sudif, admitted she was a little nervous about their first day back.

Teachers said the opening day of school is a wonderful, clean-slate start.

“It’s always a culmination of getting everything ready and finally seeing the kids,” said Laurie Dobrowolski, a third-grade teacher at Main Dunstable.

Both Nashua High School North and South set aside Tuesday for freshman orientation.

“This day is just for you,” Principal Keith Richard told the freshmen at South. “We want to make sure you’re set up for success.”

Although only freshmen were required to show up at 7:10 a.m., dozens of upperclassmen volunteered to help the new students settle in at both of the city’s high schools.

And at South, student volunteers helped with a first-day-of-school tradition. Freshmen met in the school cafeteria and then walked through a gauntlet of teachers, staff and upperclassmen who cheered and clapped as they passed.

“They’ll do that again, four years from now, when they are ready to graduate,” said Richard.

Hassan, who mentioned she was “raised by teachers,” seemed to feel at home at South.

“I am so impressed with the upperclassmen who gave up their last day of summer for you,” she told the freshmen.

But Hassan also stressed that the first day of school is the start of a new phase of life, with a new set of expectations.

“I’m looking forward to having you to work with,” she told the Class of 2017. “You will be the engine for the next stage of whatever New Hampshire is.”