Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Austintown program helps 6th-, 9th-graders
By Amanda Tonoli
Sixth- and ninth-grade students experienced the fun of participating in mentor programs in the Austintown School District.
Austintown Fitch High School junior and senior students and Austintown Middle School eighth-grade students divided themselves into groups Tuesday to help the buildings’ newcomers get acclimated to their new environment.
The high-school and middle-school mentor programs – named Link Crew and Where Everyone Belongs or WEB – are part of national organizations dedicated to helping break down barriers and help the transition from middle school to high
school and intermediate school to middle school seem less daunting.
Superintendent Vince Colaluca said he was happy to see students helping one another getting accustomed to the buildings before they start school Monday.
One of the driving forces behind implementing both Link Crew and WEB is Dave Purins, high-school assistant principal. He said a main focus is to teach the incoming students to be aware of their value and to know they are supported.
“It makes them want to come to school and establish a connection with one another,” Colaluca said.
As students participated in a number of different team-building exercises by dressing up, playing games and more, the awkward and uncomfortable feelings melted away, bonding them with one another.
“As they play these games, it psychologically breaks down the barriers so they become more familiar and more comfortable with each other,” said Joanie Jones, the middle school’s assistant principal.
High-school Principal Chris Berni said it was evident the mentoring programs made a difference already because of the number of freshmen who attended orientation – more than 300.
“It was amazing to see because the adults in the building – teachers, principals or secretaries – didn’t make the calls to these students to come today, but our Link leaders did,” he said. “I think our incoming freshmen were very receptive to that.”
The program will continue with mentors touching base with members of their groups throughout the school year to provide advice, tips for success and friendship.
The benefits are not just for incoming students, but for the mentors as well.
“I think our high-school kids have a lot of unleashed potential, and it’s our job to find ways to let that come out,” Berni said. “Our high-school kids are craving to touch the lives of others, and this just allows that leadership to come out.”
He said he enjoyed seeing students so engaged and respectful in all the activities they did as groups and is excited to see the program continue, both throughout the school year and for years to come.