The first year of middle school can be tough.
Students face the challenges of an unfamiliar building, new teachers and harder classes, all while they choke down the reality that they’re no longer the top dogs at school.
Monte Vista Middle School’s top dogs — eighth-grade students, that is — want to help smooth the transition from elementary to middle school. About 50 eighth-grade students led the “Where Everybody Belongs” orientation program last week and invited hundreds of sixth-grade students to get to know the ins and outs of middle school.
The new students were assigned a WEB group and an eighth-grade leader who gave them a school tour and told them what to expect as new students.
Omar Velazquez, 11, said he is excited to leave elementary school behind to start middle school. After he and his WEB group played a name game, Omar was the only sixth grader who could name everyone in his group.
“I feel kind of weird to start school because there are different rules and different people,” Omar said. “I’m a little nervous about the tests in middle school, but I won’t miss anything about (elementary) school."
WEB was launched three years ago as a way to make sixth-grade students comfortable and to give them an older mentor throughout the school year. “WEB makes such a difference,” said Nina Regnier, a WEB instructor and eighth-grade science teacher. “It’s really a good way to break down the barriers."
Teachers recommend seventh-grade students to be WEB leaders the following school year. WEB student leaders undergo two days of training before orientation and organize activities throughout the school year for their sixth-grade group.
Victoria Martin, 13, said she became a WEB student leader because she likes to meet new students and she wants to put the sixth-grade students at ease. “I remember how I felt as a sixth-grader, and it’s helpful to have a program like this,” Victoria said.
And the additional responsibility of setting a good example comes with the job. “They look up to you, so you can’t do anything wrong. You really need to watch yourself,” she said.
WEB coordinator Dawn Arbogast said she and her staff want to track discipline numbers in hopes that the mentor program will lessen problems."
n To contact reporter Danielle MacMurchy, call 830-4280 or e-mail danielle@?tracypress.com.