Soon-to-be fifth-graders had a morning of orientation at both St. Michael-Albertville and West Monday morning. For students are typically bussed to school, bus transportation was provided making the morning a "back-to-school" practice run.
St. Michael-Albertville started the orientation–called WEB [Where Everyone Belongs]–three years ago to help younger students with the transition to middle school.
“It’s really helped with the anxiety level,” social worker Jessica Buskey said from Middle School East Monday morning, “Kids are nervous but parents are more nervous. Now the fifth-graders come in for walk through and open house comfortably and show their parents around, this eases parents worry and it also helps parents see those eighth-graders in a positive light. Most of those parents are most nervous about the older kids.”
The premise of the program is simple. Eighth grade students help lead activities throughout the school during orientation, answering questions and helping the new fifth-graders along as they adjust to a new school.
This past spring, 110 students in this year’s eighth grade class applied to be WEB leaders and the WEB coordinators had to narrow it down to 56.
“It was so hard to turn away students,” Buskey explained, “we really were so glad so many saw this as a valuable thing to be a part of.”
What makes this years WEB leaders most unique is they are also the first group that had orientation when they came to the middle school. Precisely why one eighth-grader wanted to participate,
“I joined WEB because I was really freaked out to come to this school and WEB helped me. I want to help others,” Kaitlyn Ege shared with her WEB group of 10 students Monday.
“As much as the program is for fifth-graders, the eighth-graders take just as much, if not more, out of it,” WEB coordinator and eighth grade teacher Eric Ditvelson said. “The students have to apply and write an essay, they have to have teacher recommendation and also KORT [homeroom] recommendation, which usually tells us how they do with multiage interaction.”
Those soon to be fifth-graders become comfortable with middle school and eighth-graders gain leadership skills before moving on to high school. It’s a win-win situation, Ditvelson added.