Do you remember your first day of middle school? The jitters. The friends. The locker. Passing period. Everything is so different from elementary school. It can cause a lot of emotions!
To ease the transition, all LPS middle schools offer a mentoring program consisting of eighth grade leaders who are there to help younger students succeed. Euclid, Goddard, and Newton middle schools follow The Boomerang Project’s WEB program. WEB stands for “Where Everybody Belongs.” Powell Middle School has adapted this program for their own school community, and their program is called PRIDE. Eighth grade leaders go through training activities ahead of the start of school to build their team and to understand best practices for helping younger students.
These programs have been in place in LPS middle schools for around two decades. Eighth graders are nominated by teachers, or sometimes students express interest. Nominations are based more on “soft skills” than grades or achievements: does the nominee have the demeanor to help put others at ease, the skills to step in and stop bullying, the enthusiasm for including others, the leadership qualities that mean others look up to them as an example? Those are the students best suited to fill the role.
At the start of the school year, leaders take sixth graders on a tour of the school without other seventh and eighth graders around, and sixth graders have access to their lockers at this time as well. For some of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever encountered a combination lock, and older students are there to help.
In addition to helping out with the “first day of school” jitters, eighth graders work quarterly with sixth graders to help them develop their own successful middle school practices: organization, socialization, and talking to teachers about missing assignments or issues with testing or grades.
Teachers and other school staff have noticed the improved relationships between middle schools’ youngest and oldest students. It has also fostered a keen sense of pride in their school among eight grade students. Kendy Blake, the PRIDE advisor at Powell, said, “They’re not just students here; they’re part of building the community and culture.” The goal is that every student feels they have a safe connection to someone in the building.
Powell PRIDE leader Michael Carrana said if he could tell incoming sixth graders one thing about middle school, it would be, “You are not alone in the middle school journey. There are other people as well, just as or even more nervous than you. Teachers are not only there to teach you but help you as well."