By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Malachi Rubio vividly remembers his first day as a middle school student.
“It was scary because I was new to the place,” he said.
That’s why the Warner Middle School eighth grade student decided to join the Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) program at the school.
It’s an orientation and transition program that welcomes sixth graders to the school and makes them feel comfortable throughout their first middle school experience. It’s a national program first launched at Warner by Superintendent Denny Morrison last school year.
“I wanted to make a different to the sixth graders,” Rubio said about joining the program. “To make the school a better place.”
Under the supervision of Karen Nolen and Dana McClain, WEB has 30 kids each semester who are mentors for the sixth graders. The eighth graders apply to be a WEB leader, submit a letter as to why they want to join the program and answer some questions about their interest. Nolen said the WEB leaders are then hand-picked.
The leaders have classroom time each day in addition to interacting with the sixth graders.
“They’ll do some activities, a lesson,” Nolen said. “They’ve kind of been training in class to do that.”
Topics include leadership and developing good study habits. There are roughly two WEB leaders for every 10 students.
“In sixth grade you kind of have to fend for yourself,” WEB leader Karleigh Godfrey said. “I learned a lot of leadership skills I didn’t have before.”
Grace Turner, another WEB leader, is glad she was accepted into the program.
“I remember going into sixth grade what it was like,” she said. “I’ve definitely learned a lot about leading. You feel a lot more confident about what you’re doing.”
The WEB leaders, obviously, aren’t the only ones benefiting from the program.
Sixth grader Jacob Bowen didn’t know a lot of people upon walking into Warner.
“I was real nervous,” he said. “Thought I was going to get picked on. The WEB leaders helped me get (rid) of the fear. They showed us the school and where everything was.”
On a scale of 1-10, Hiba Loukssi’s jitters were definitely a 10.
“I was so nervous … to see if they would accept me,” she said. “I thought I was going to be late to all my classes. That worried me. The WEB program helped me a lot. They taught me I shouldn’t be so afraid because a lot of other people are going through the same thing.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.