New Junior High Students Get Helping Hand from Older Classmates
The beginning of each school year carries its own excitement, but also some challenges, for each student and class. It may be moving up to a more difficult subject or getting used to a new group of classmates.
This is especially true for sixth grade students across CCSD59. Each year, students make the leap from elementary school to one of our three junior highs. This move brings with it added responsibility and a completely new experience.
That is why staff and older students make it a priority to bridge the gap between elementary and junior high and make the transition as smooth as possible. Older students relish the opportunity to foster relationships with new junior high classmates to build a tighter rapport throughout our buildings.
At Grove, this takes the form of Students Onboard for Success (S.O.S.). This club of eighth grade students, guided by teachers Kim Wills and Mary Bessemer, began as a way to train leaders to coach and build relationships with incoming sixth grade students and develop a strong understanding of the junior high experience. It also encourages these new students to be active participants in their own education on health and wellness.
“They know we’re students, too. We’ve been through it and they know they can trust us,” said Nejla, an eighth grade student.
Each fall, leaders are trained to assist teachers with orientation and kickoff events for sixth grade students. This transitions to team-building activities and a separate camp that students take part in throughout the year.
“They’re new to this school and we want to make sure that things start off well. We want them to feel comfortable when they start to deal with things they didn’t in elementary school.”
At the recent kickoff event, sixth grade students spent all day going from classroom to classroom to discuss healthy lifestyles, good learning habits, and friendships. Fitness activities filled the gym as students conquered both individual and team-centered tasks. They also received advice from their older classmates and staff on what to expect going forward.
“The best advice they gave is to join clubs so that you can put yourself out there and find more friends,” said Will, a sixth grade student. “It’s a good way to learn.”
Former CCSD59 students, now at Elk Grove High School, also led activities throughout the day and provided their own thoughts on their junior high experience.
For younger students, it’s a valuable resource to be able to form a network of knowledgeable, approachable eighth grade students so early in their junior high days. For those leaders, it is rewarding to give back to these new fellow Elks because they remember themselves in those shoes.
“They’re new to this school, and we want to make sure that things start off well,” said Cameron, an eighth grade student. “We want them to feel comfortable when they start to deal with things they didn’t in elementary school.”
Above all, leaders told sixth grade students to speak up if they are uncertain or have concerns. There is no downside to getting involved in clubs or activities around school. Younger students took the advice to heart, ready to tackle their first year.
“If you’re having a problem, talk to people,” said Olivia, a sixth grade student. “Ask teachers and don’t be afraid to tell someone or branch out.”