Student mentors help rookies take the sometimes scary step to middle school

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Kyrene Middle School Students (from left to right) JaNae Vine, Jaiyla Morrison, Maliah Sanders, and Shelby Shaffer.

By Diana Nelson

The jump from elementary school to middle school can be a tricky one but there’s an innovative program that can help students make that transition a bit more gracefully.

WEB, which stands for “Where Everybody Belongs” is a wild adventure that never stops being fun, says Kyrene Middle School student Heidi Bullock.

It’s the first year that the program is in place at all six middle schools in the Kyrene district.

“Many incoming sixth-graders may feel nervous about their new environment. As WEB leaders, we get to help them adjust and feel safe while also watching them grow. I really have enjoyed my time as a WEB Leader so far,” said Heidi.

Built on the belief that students can mentor their fellow students and help them succeed, the program trains mentors from eighth-grade classes to be WEB leaders.

As positive role models, WEB leaders attend the same school and guide the sixth- and seventh-graders to discover the traits to be successful during the transition to middle school and help to  facilitate the students’ adjustment.

“KMS WEB is an extraordinary program to help incoming sixth-graders into our humble school. We show them how to cooperate in certain situations and help them grow throughout the year,” said student leader and WEB participant Alayjanae Gary.

More and more studies show that if students have a positive experience their first year in middle school, their chances for academic and social success increase dramatically. WEB provides the structure for sixth-  and seventh-graders to receive support and guidance from eighth-graders, who have already the mastered the challenges that middle school poses.WEB also acts as an anti-bullying program for middle schools by providing trained student leaders who look for bullying behavior and help stop it. WEB gives older students permission to be aware of and report any negative behavior they see, creating a safer school for everybody.

The yearlong program boasts four components that contribute to its success:

  • Middle School Orientation – WEB leaders and sixth- and seventh-graders start building the mentor relationship and receive information about how to be successful in middle school.
  • Academic Follow Ups – WEB leaders support sixth- and seventh-grade academic success and character development through classroom visits.
  • Social Follow Ups – WEB Leaders and sixth- and seventh-graders connect outside the classroom at social events to increase student engagement and promote positive school climate.
  • Leader Initiated Contacts – WEB leaders connect with their sixth-graders on a more individual basis.

WEB leaders not only help organize and guide the sixth-graders through orientation day, they also help to facilitate a smooth transition both socially and academically throughout the year explained KMS teacher Angela Dixon.

“It is great that sixth-graders have a trusted eighth-grader that they can go to if they have any questions or are nervous about something,” said Dixon.

With WEB, sixth-graders experience at least eight positive contacts with their WEB leaders during the first six weeks of school and this both contributes to overall school safety as well as helps them create a sense of connection to their new school.

WEB is a national program which Kyrene teachers have been trained in. Each middle-school site has two or three program co-coordinators.

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