SDR to provide peer mentorship to sixth, ninth graders in the fall
Star Journal Staff
The first day of school can be tough; entering school as the youngest group of students can be downright intimidating. But the School District of Rhinelander has a plan to make the transition for sixth graders and ninth graders easier. James Williams Middle School and Rhinelander High School are introducing partner programs that are part of an international organization whose goal is to support schools in creating welcoming and supportive communities through peer-to-peer mentorship.
Both Rhinelander High School associate principal, Kari Strebig and middle school social studies teacher, Kayla Goranson were familiar with the Link and W.E.B. (Where Everybody Belongs) programs before they were implemented this year and along with middle school science teacher Luke Statz, attended a three-day training in Chicago.
“We’ve looked to these three teachers to do the research, get the training and lead us in this initiative,” middle school Principal Richard Gretzinger explained.
“It’s just a phenomenal way for our students to feel more welcome, to bring them together as kind of a team and to help build our school community,” Goranson stated, adding, “I think as we move forward as a district and now that we are going to, as the middle school, have students coming from different elementary schools in the coming years, that piece of getting them introduced to each other and to start team building so they are more familiar with their peers and their teachers is going to be huge.”
The middle school is implementing W.E.B.
“This program was totally new to me,” middle school special education teacher Jamie Sattler said. “So something I think is really cool is that it allows the eighth graders opportunities to be leaders and just build that responsibility for other students.”
Students who wished to become W.E.B. leaders had to apply and teachers and staff helped make the selection. Qualities looked for in a potential peer leader include responsible, kind, helpful and involved in all kinds of different things so they can relate to the students they will be helping.
Some of the activities planned include orientation, mock schedules, tours and opportunities to experience their new school environment. Middle school students will receive their locks and lockers, get to run through their lunch schedules and will have a chance to meet all their teachers as well as other school staff. Similar activities are planned for the high school.
The support of the W.E.B. leaders will continue throughout the school year. They will be available for questions and will even present to students on ways to deal with the stress of school such as time management skills and how to make good choices.
“This provides them with a role model to help them navigate the sometimes murky waters that are middle school,” Goranson said.
Educational research shows that the transition into middle school and into high school is difficult for many adolescents. Concerns about social interactions, uncertainty of academic expectations and their changing identities can add to their stress. A positive school culture and positive experiences are shown to increase the potential for success for all students, not only academically but socially and emotionally as well.
Only sixth graders and student W.E.B. leaders will attend the first day of school, Tuesday, Sept. 3. At the high school, only freshmen and student Crew leaders will be there. All grades will attend beginning Wednesday, Sept. 4.