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WEB leaders mentor classmates from Day 1

Pulling people up to stand together is part of the WEB program at Veronica Connor Middle School

Veronica Connor Middle School teachers Deanna Przepiora, Jillian Stapleton, and leaders from Where Everyone Belongs were among those who greeted the students at the school door on Wednesday's first day of classes in the Grand Island Central School District.

WEB is a year-long program where eighth-grade leaders mentor sixth-graders new to the school. WEB leaders meet their sixth-graders monthly, usually on a WEB Friday, with activities designed to build each other up.

Stapleton demonstrated the point about pulling people up during a WEB rally at VCMS Monday, Aug. 30. Standing on a chair in front of a gym full of middle schoolers, Stapleton was pulled by a student off the chair, but when Stapleton and the student switched places, the student couldn't pull the teacher up to stand side by side. Stapleton explained to the assembly: "Unfortunately, it's easy to hold other kids down. It doesn't take much. A sarcastic comment, a funny look, excluding them from being in your group at lunch. It doesn't take much to pull somebody down. It's a lot harder to build somebody up and to pull somebody up. But when we work together, we can continue to hold each other up. And that's what we're all about here at Veronica E. Connor Middle School."

Przepiora said the WEB relationship development in the morning session Monday would help sixth-graders become "more acclimated with the middle school." From 8 a.m. to noon, the incoming middle school students had more than a typical orientation session of learning their class schedule and where their locker is located. The morning session was all about "You matter," the teachers said.

"You belong here. We want you to be a part of the school," Stapleton said. "So it's all about forming relationships between the eighth-graders and the sixth-graders. They, the eighth-graders, obviously have been here. They know how middle school works. They can give them tips on how to be successful with what they learned throughout their time here. I think this year, more than ever, it's super-important after a year and a half of a pandemic where the students, some of them, haven't been in the school setting in over a year."

Sixth grade at Connor Middle School is also the first time since attending Sidway that all of the kids who attended Kaegebein and Huth Road schools will come together as one class. WEB activities reinforce the philosophy that the students aren't separate Kagebeiners or Huthers, but they are one Connor Middle School.

The WEB mentorship began even before the sixth-graders arrived in the VCMS gym Monday. A week earlier, the WEB leaders made personal phone calls to invite their sixth-graders to WEB day, following up on earlier letters. Stapleton said the eighth-graders will mentor them through that transition, with 42 WEB-leaders, working in pairs, mentoring 10 sixth-graders each this year.

Stapleton told the assembly on Monday: Promise to work together. Promise to be an influencer for good. And when you see a classmate slipping a little, be the person who pulls a classmate up and never be the one to pull people down. It makes learning more fun and makes Connor Middle School a better place.