About once or twice a quarter, a group of about 50 eighth graders get together with all of the Bluffs Middle School sixth graders for fun activities and developing connections. The eighth grade group is called WEB, which stands for “Where Everybody Belongs,” and it was designed to mentor sixth graders to help them adjust to life at middle school.
The program began spring 2020 with recruitment, and officially got underway in the 2020-21 school year. WEB coordinator Sarah McGhehey said the idea came from a similar program at the high school.
“Scottsbluff High School started the same type of transition program (Link Crew) at the high school a couple years before the middle school followed suit,” she said. “Culture is a focus at Bluffs Middle School, and this program allows students to influence and change the culture at BMS.”
McGhehey, who leads WEB with the help of her fellow coordinator David Castle, said 53 eighth graders serve 256 sixth graders by leading small group activities followed by conversation in which sixth grade students can get advice from their older peers.
“We want to stay close to a 1:5 ratio,” she said. “WEB leaders work in pairs with a group of approximately 10 sixth grade students. … Throughout the year, WEB leaders will continue to facilitate small group activities during sixth grade homerooms. These follow-up activities occur one to two times a quarter and are geared toward continually guiding students toward success, both in and out of the classroom.”
Eighth grader Ella Powell said the mentoring program is helpful because being in sixth grade can be intimidating at first.
“When new sixth graders come, like you’re always super scared, pretty nervous about the start of it,” she said. “So, we just kind of help them break that ice. That way if they need someone to talk to, they can always come talk to us.”
That’s exactly how fellow eighth grader Erin Clark felt.
“Back when I was in sixth grade, I was a bit scared,” she said. “And I think with WEB, sixth graders feel more, I want to say, at home at BMS because BMS is supposed to be a safe place.”
McGhehey said that hearing from their peers gives the younger students the opportunity to see what success looks like at BMS.
“The younger students benefit from this program by learning from peers rather than adults and they get to see what it takes to be successful in middle school as they transition,” she said.
As for the older students, WEB provides leadership opportunities.
“WEB allows eighth grade students to influence the culture at BMS by helping sixth grade students transition and learn different ways to be successful in our building,” she said. “It also allows eighth graders to be leaders and build leadership skills that will help them throughout high school and post-secondary.”
With the program still being fairly young, McGhehey said she and Castle look forward to improving it for both the sixth grade and eighth grade students and seeing where the program will go.
“David (Castle) and I are very excited and optimistic about where the program is headed and how it has changed and improved since our first year as WEB coordinators,” she said. “We are happy to offer a leadership program for our students and look forward to growing and advancing the WEB program at BMS.”