MASSENA - Entering middle school for the first time can be a daunting task for some students, and the J.W. Leary Junior High School in Massena has brought back a successful orientation program this year to help with the process.
Fifty one eighth-graders are part of the school’s WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) Crew this year and spent Thursday taking part in mentoring activities with the incoming seventh graders.
Sporting bright orange t-shirts, the WEB leaders formed long lines to officially welcome the class of 2020 into the school’s gymnasium at 8 a.m., giving enthusiastic high fives and hellos.
“They’re here to mentor these kids and they’re hoping to use this to make the transition smooth and to help prevent bullying,” Principal Burton Peck said.
“This is our second year implementing WEB at the junior high. It’s a transition program to help our seventh-graders come to junior high,” WEB program director Christine Sweet added. “They’re coming from four different elementary schools - Nightengale, Jefferson, Madison, and Trinity - and so now our point is to try and mingle everybody so it’s not just the Nightingale kids sticking together and the Madison’s sticking together. We want to try and mix everybody up.”
The number of WEB leaders is up from 35 participants last year.
The program is similar to Massena Central High School’s Link Crew program, which is part of the larger Boomerang Project, designed to transition students to new schools.
“I like helping the other younger kids. Today went really well. It was very organized and everyone did really well,” WEB leader Kali Joslin said.
Prior to being selected as WEB leaders, the older students had to fill out applications and go through numerous training sessions.
“They spent two days training to be a mentor and then on orientation, which is today, they’ve all now been assigned 10 seventh-grade students that they’re going to mentor all year. So it starts today, but it lasts throughout the whole year,” Ms. Sweet said. “This is our orientation. This is our big event, but then there will be smaller events throughout the year that they can get with their group and make that connection and help them out with questions and anything that is on their mind.”
Seventh-grader Aurore Paquin said that she was impressed with the effort by the staff and older students.
“I liked all of it. My favorite part was a sticks game that we played. We used sticks and straws and were trying not to get the last one,” Aurore said. “That was a lot of fun.”
Mr. Peck and Ms. Sweet addressed the group of new and old middle school students sitting in the bleachers Thursday morning, taking part in typical ice-breaking activities.
There was a “repeat after me song,” a balloon popping relay race competition and other types of games.
“You all know a lot of things already and you know a lot of things about school. You’ve been in school for six years already and know a lot of things and you should try to remember that when coming into the junior high,” Ms. Sweet told the seventh graders. “We want you to use what you already know to make your year great.”
Mr. Peck, who told students that he entered the seventh grade 39 years ago, said that he wishes he had a program like WEB when he was younger.
He told a story of his initial struggles with adjusting to his new school nearly four decades ago and his three failing grades on his first report card.
He attributed this mostly to not turning in his homework.
“You guys are lucky. I wish that I had had a program like WEB to get me through junior high. It would have been really helpful to me,” he said. “You guys are so lucky. You get to know somebody, have a mentor, have somebody to help you along the way and I recommend that you use that. You don’t want to come home with three failing grades. So what I’m asking you is, be smarter than your principal.”