MARYSVILLE – Going into middle school and high school can be scary.
So Wednesday, sixth-graders and ninth-graders in the Marysville School District received special training to make the transition easier.
The other grade levels started school Thursday.
In the city’s three middle schools, students followed a curriculum called We Belong, or WEB. Basically, upperclassmen will be big brothers or sisters to about 10 sixth-graders throughout the year, helping them adjust. A similar program called Link Crew is being done at the high school level.
Stephanie Kubej, the second-year principal at Marysville Middle School, likes We Belong because it’s not just for one day. “The mentors keep in touch and support the kids throughout the year,” she said.
She met with parents earlier that morning, “to ally their fears a little bit,” she said, adding most went away happy.
She said it was good for the 360 sixth-graders to have the school to themselves. They met in the morning in the gym for some activities, then after lunch they went to all seven of their classes and met their teachers for about 15 minutes. They were given five minutes in-between classes, rather than the normal four. “The passing time – it’s huge,” she said, as they were given time to find their classes without dealing with 900 students.
She said colleagues were jealous about the process.
“You’re doing what?” they asked her. “It’s brilliant team-building,” was her response.
Eighth-grade science teacher Dana Wojcik was one of the WEB leaders. A grant helped pay for her training last spring. She said the program is more than just about leadership.
“What attracted me was the anti-bullying piece,” she said, along with the service-to-others part. “There’s a bigger meaning” than just mentorship, she said.
Wojcik talked to the larger group about some of the rules at school, such as not wearing hats or hoodies. She said the WEB leaders, who wore light-green t-shirts, were there to help.
“Don’t stress out,” she told the kids.
Seventh-grader Bethlehem Warren is one of the WEB leaders. She will be helping five boys and five girls. She received two days of training and said her job was to be “happy, hyper and positive,” along with “helping them feel comfortable.” She said she wanted to help because she remembers how uneasy it was for her at first last year. She said her group was “quiet, excited and nervous” at first, but then things went well once everything settled down.
A little sister herself, she said she’s looking forward to being a big sister to her group and a good role model.
Scott Richey is the new School Resource Officer for MMS.
“It’s a brand-new gig for me” after being on patrol for 15 years, he said.
He knows about working with kids. He has three of his own, and he’s coached sports for years.
“It’s an awkward time in their lives,” he said of middle school.
He used the We Belong sessions to start getting to know the sixth-graders.
“There are so many good things you can do to build relationships,” he said as he passed out anti-bulling bracelets to students.
Richey said safety is such a key issue in school now.
“Bullying is a bigger issue now than ever before,” he said, adding that social media is so prominent, and everyone has access to cell phones and computers.
He said with sixth-graders coming from so many elementary schools We Belong was a great way for them to get to know each other.
“It should lead to less stress,” he said.
Wojcik said We Belong gives the kids real-life advice.
“There are the kinds of things that happen in middle school,” she said. “You have to rely on what’s right or wrong.”