Sixth graders at Bristow Middle School, as well as at King Philip and Sedgwick, transitioned to middle school with the assistance of the WEB program.
By Ronni Newton
Transitioning from elementary to middle school is intimidating for many sixth graders, but in West Hartford older students work hard to make younger students feel welcome on the first day and help them succeed throughout the year.
WEB – “Where Everybody Belongs” – is a national orientation program for middle school students, similar to Link Crew which has been adopted by West Hartford’s high schools.
“Built on the belief that students can help students succeed, members of the 8th grade class apply, are chosen and ultimately trained to be WEB leaders,” said Troy Jones, physical education and health teacher and WEB coordinator at Bristow Middle School. “These peer role models are mentors and student leaders who guide the sixth graders to discover what it takes to be successful during their middle school years.”
Jones previously taught at and helped lead the WEB program at King Philip Middle School, and at Bristow is assisted by special education teacher Mackenzie Fitzgerald. He said there are 21 eighth grade WEB leaders at Bristow who were chosen last spring, and then gave up two full days of their summer vacation, spending from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. last Thursday and Friday at leader training.
On Monday, Aug. 29, the WEB leaders welcomed Bristow’s 104 sixth graders to the school family “with purpose, intentionality, energy, and a ton of fun,” Jones said.
Leaders arrived at Bristow Monday morning at 6:56 a.m. “packed with their leader handbook, props for themed building tours and relentless energy to make sure our sixth graders felt right at home during the four-hour orientation,” Jones said.
“During the application process last spring, leaders were asked to create a video, no longer than 2 minutes and 13 seconds, as to why they should be selected. My co-coordinator, Mackenzie Fitzgerald and I viewed the videos, rubric in hand, listening to how these amazing kids were willing to put themselves second and others first … and what ‘total support’ meant to them,” said Jones.
When the sixth graders arrived, all spent the first 75 minutes in the gym. Whole group activities focused on finding their own style, the value of choices, and being true to yourself. Students also enjoyed a balloon pop relay.
Small group activities filled the next two and a half hours “where our sixth graders got to meet new friends through 10, very intentionally designed and spiraled activities led by their two WEB leaders,” Jones said.
A closing assembly ended the day, and included group cheers as well as discussions about how students are influenced in middle school and the value and benefit of lifting each other up rather than pulling someone down.
“Sixth graders left Bristow to the blasting sound of Michael Franti’s ‘I’m Alive’ with smiles, laughter, fist bumps and being more comfortable about their new home than they were four hours earlier,” said Jones.
“I could not be more proud of the effort these amazing humans put in to make Monday’s orientation a success,” Jones said.
“I want the absolute best for every student at Bristow. Yes, I teach health and physical education … and I continue working towards my greater goal of teaching young humans how to be kind. These WEB leaders are some of the most empathetic, genuinely kind kids I have ever met. Mackenzie and I try to arm them with a utility belt of intentionality, purpose, and kindness because when compassion for others leads, heads will turn. They often hear me say, ‘Be the best for the world, not the best in the world,’ and on Monday morning, they were just that,” said Jones.
All West Hartford Public School students return to class on Wednesday, Aug, 31, 2022.
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