by Cheryl Senn
“Coming to a larger site can be intimidating. We want our kids to feel like this is their home,” said Washington Academic Middle School (WAMS) principal Jamie Nino, when talking about the reason the middle school campus hosts the Where Everybody Belongs(WEB) program prior to the first day of school.
On the Sanger High School(SHS) campus, a similar program, geared towards incoming freshmen, called Link Crew, took place as well.
Both programs, WEB and Link Crew, are programs which are part of the Boomerang Project.
WAMS WEB and SHS Link Crew begin the day with a rally which introduces the principal, counselors and teachers. After the rally, the students are divided into groups where ice breaker, team building and leadership activities take place, under the direction of a student mentor. At the end of the day, the students take a campus tour with their mentors.
According to the Boomerang website, WEB is a middle school orientation and transition program that welcomes sixth and seventh graders and makes them feel comfortable throughout the first year of their middle school experience. It is built on the belief that students can help students succeed and the program trains mentors from the eighth grade class to be WEB leaders.
The website describes the Link Crew Program as a high school transition program that welcomes freshmen and makes them feel comfortable throughout the first year of their high school experience.
WAMS teachers Stacy Prinz and Justin Mesloh are also WEB teacher leaders for the campus program. Both Prinz and Mesloh plan the WEB day along with training the eighth grade WEB student leaders. Prinz said more than 200 sixth graders participated in the program this year, the fourth year of hosting the program.
There were a few changes to the WEB program at WAMS. “This was our first year that we made the groups based off of the students actual advisory class,” said Mesloh who added that he thought this change would help sixth grade students feel a little less stress going into their first day. “We felt this would help students’ comfort levels on the first day of school because they would already know some of the students in their class,” added Prinz.
“They help you understand what you need to be prepared for,” said WAMS sixth grade student, Caroline Cavazos, about why she was thankful for the WEB Program.
Sanger High teacher, Alison Halsey, is the organizer for the Link Crew Program, at the high school campus. Halsey said this was the biggest year so far with 380 of the 670 incoming freshman participating.
At WAMS, the WEB leaders are actively involved in tutoring and helping sixth grade students, throughout the school year, with organizational skills during advisory. Mesloh said he has seen eighth grade WEB leaders come into the sixth grade student’s advisory class and help students with many different aspects of being a sixth grader. “These can range from keeping your binder clean, answering questions about life at WAMS, helping with subjects or concepts they may have missed, and being another eye and ear for students who struggle with making sure they have their homework stamped correctly,” said Mesloh.
At Sanger High, the Link Crew mentors are assigned a group of students which they mentor all year. The mentors stay in contact with their assigned group and invite them to football games and other events happening on the high school campus throughout the year.
Nino said the success of the WEB program is one of many reasons why bullying has decreased on the WAMS campus.
“When the WEB program is successful, throughout the year, we see less detentions, less F’s, and less students in after school tutorial,” said Mesloh.
Halsey said, during the Link Crew rally, “That’s what Sanger High is all about. Figuring out where your place is,” as she encouraged freshmen to make new friends beyond the friends they had in elementary school.
Both SHS and WAMS will continue to host these student transition programs in the future.
WAMS will also be hosting an end of the year rally, for all incoming new students, from the surrounding elementary schools, that feed into WAMS, Nino said.
Watch KRL for more Sanger articles from Cheryl and check this issue for more back to school related articles.