On Friday morning, nervous seventh graders milled about outside .
Although many had stopped by with their families earlier in the week to find lockers or have school photos taken, this was their first time venturing to junior high alone.
But when it was at last time to enter, the students weren’t greeted by a ringing school bell. They were greeted by upbeat music and the cheers of clapping ninth graders wearing neon green T-shirts.
Friday’s entrance kicked off a junior high program called “Where Everybody Belongs (WEB)” that helps seventh graders with the transition into junior high. The program started at four years ago and launched at West Junior High this year.
In WEB, ninth graders familiar with the ins and outs of junior high serve as mentors to seventh graders just learning the ropes—starting with a warm welcome to kick off the school year.
“What you’re looking at are some of the best, strongest leaders in our building, but they’re not—what?—better than anyone else,” social studies teacher Kim Campbell told the new students.
Campbell, like a camp counselor extraordinaire, kicked off Friday’s assembly by leading seventh graders and ninth graders in songs and games. In one game, students had to clap when she signaled them with a dramatic arm motion. After several false starts from the overeager crowd, she compared the game to their upcoming junior high experience.
“It’s all about figuring out the pattern,” Campbell said.
The new patterns are what had the seventh graders most nervous.
“You have to go to your classes,” said Evelyn Alcantal, who attended Alice Smith Elementary before moving up to West Junior High.
But the WEB leaders weren’t just there to help with logistics. They shared their successes and failures with the younger students—even periods when they got bad grades—to emphasize the importance of bouncing back from mistakes.
Ninth grader Rose Griggs, who remembers moving up to West Junior High from Eisenhower Elementary, said her advice is for the new students to just be themselves and not let other students tell them who to be.
The students celebrated those differences at the orientation. At one point, the WEB leaders sat in the stands in front of the seventh graders. Campbell had them stand up whenever a trait or experience applied to them. When she asked which of the students don’t do any sports, just one of the WEB leaders stood up.
The whole room applauded, emphasizing a point Campbell made earlier: “See, we’re all different here at West. That’s what makes us special.”
Nicholas Garder said WEB had him more excited about school—particularly his metal shop class and meeting new friends.
“There’s so many more people,” he said. “It’s been pretty cool.”