AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A new school year can cause a lot of anxiety and worry for students.
In addition to worrying about finding their way around a new building, students may stress about fitting in and making friends. It can be a lot to take in.
This year, Austintown Middle School is relying on its older students to help the sixth grade students with their transition, as part of the school’s new WEB program, which stands for “where everyone belongs.”
The program is all about mentorship. Tuesday, the eighth graders gave tours to students and talked to them about their experiences, wrapping things up later with a pep rally.
That’s when one of the teachers had a can of pop with her and started drinking it. She asked if anyone else was thirsty, and a lot of kids raised their hands.
It was all a teaching moment — letting kids know how powerful influence is, and just because one person is doing something, it doesn’t mean they always have to.
Eighth grade mentor Nathan Leskovac said he remembers what it was like to be in the new students’ shoes, and it’s a good opportunity to make them feel more comfortable.
“You get to show them around the school and everything,” he said. “It’s like me the first day, when I went to art class. I didn’t know where to go, so I had to ask a teacher and everything, but now they know where to go.”
Leskovac is one of 95 eighth graders who are mentors to sixth grade students.
It’s a big responsibility. Eighth graders are the oldest in the school, so a lot of students look up to them and watch everything that they do, said eighth grade mentor Rebekah Berni.
“How you act, they’re going to want to act just like you,” she said. “They’re going to want to do what you do, so… the way you’re acting, things you say, it will just reflect them.”
Austintown Middle School teacher Michelle Best said it works in both ways.
“Not only are they helping somebody, but they’re also learning how to be better people themselves, because all of a sudden, they understand that they are changing how somebody else is viewing them,” she said.
Seventh grade Principal Joanie Jones said she hopes this shows students how powerful words and actions are when they’re used positively. She added that she hopes that they’ll remember that when using social media or texting.
“We’ve all done all kinds of things to try to prevent cyber bullying in school,” she said. “We’ve talked to them. We have a great school resource officer. We go and we meet with kids.”
The WEB program is going to meet monthly. Mentors will be able to meet with sixth graders, too, to see how they’re doing.