Building a culture of belonging

students screaming and clapping

Starting middle school can be a challenging experience, but the new program at SGMS Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) will help support sixth graders as they transition from elementary school.

The program is led by eighth graders who were trained to provide peer mentorship by WEB coordinators Ms. Cutrone, Mrs. Levandowski, Mr. McCann and Ms. Rumpf.

The eighth-grade WEB leaders are excited to help sixth graders adjust to their new school environment throughout the year.

“Our WEB leaders encourage kindness, compassion, and inclusivity, which are all values that are central to our mission,” said Superintendent Susan Swartz. “By fostering a sense of community among new and returning students, WEB will help sixth graders find their place and feel a sense of belonging in their new school environment.”

Sixth graders met their mentors yesterday for a four-hour session that involved providing a school tour, showing them their classrooms and either introducing them to or explaining who their teachers are. They also engaged them in fun activities that promote collaboration and friendship.

Principal stands in crowded school lobby giving high fives to students.

“We are so very excited to have a program like WEB! As the name indicates (Where Everybody Belongs) solidifies the message that we want all of our middle school students to hold as their philosophy,” said Principal Cosmer. “Our orientation this year was full of upbeat team building activities that hopefully settled some nerves that often can accompany a new sixth grader as they start their middle school career. Going forward, not only will similar activities follow, but they will have a built-in eighth-grade peer buddy/mentor as a continued resource. This program works to build positive character while instilling a true appreciation of our TARTAN PRIDE!”

There will be follow ups once a month where the eighth-grade leaders will visit the sixth graders 9th period class and run programs with them.

SGMS teacher Kristy Rosa, who helped the program run smoothly, confirmed that the program created enthusiasm by sharing this story, “Last night I received a wonderful email from a new 6th grade parent. She said that her daughter went from full of worries to telling her mom after orientation, I wish we could fast forward time to next Thursday because I can’t wait to start!”

There were only 24 students not able to attend yesterday’s program, but they will meet their WEB mentor within the first two weeks of school.

For more photos, from the Where Everybody Belongs orientation, click the Facebook post below.

(Photo credit: Erica Miller, BOCES photographer)