Press Mentions

WEB News
Menomonee Falls Patch Menomonee Falls, WI United States
by Deanne Haines -
3/9/2011

“Middle school sign-up is on Tuesday evening. I'm not sure I'm ready for this!”  

That was the Facebook status of one of my friends, a mother of three from New Mexico. As my friend pointed out, the transition to middle school can be a scary experience for children and their parents. North Middle School has found a way to alleviate some of that anxiety.  They’ve integrated a national program called Where Everybody Belongs, or WEB for short. 

The program involves training a group of 8th graders, called WEB leaders, to guide, teach, befriend, and mentor 6th graders and help them navigate their first year of middle school.  

“The program has just been amazing,” said Dr. Tabia Nicholas, principal of North Middle School.  She admits middle school can be tough and says, “We want to do everything we can to ease the transition.”

It starts with a phone call before the school year begins.  The 8th grade WEB leaders reach out to the 6th graders to put them at ease before the first day.  Tanner and Alicia, both 6th graders at North, said that helped them feel less nervous and not as shy when starting school. 

The first morning of school is spent with the 8th grade WEB leaders welcoming the new 6th grade class.  The 8th graders conduct activities to help the new students get acquainted with each other and the school.

Oshianna, a 6th grader, says that is one of the best parts of the program. 

“The 8th graders were there for us when we didn’t know where to go,” Oshianna said.

The 8th graders remember how tough it can be entering middle school. 

“By being a WEB leader I can help kids if they get lost in the hallway, or if they’re having problems at home or with homework or anything,” said Rachel, an 8th grader.

The day I visited North Middle School, the 6th grade classrooms were abuzz with laughter and cheering.  The WEB leaders were teaching an anti-bullying activity. They were trying to squeeze all the toothpaste out from a tube and then trying to put it all back in.  The activity demonstrated how you can’t take back negative words once you’ve said them about someone else – just like you can’t put toothpaste back into its tube.  The second part of the lesson encouraged classmates to give positive words written on stickers to each other.  Students were sporting labels such as, “friendly,” “awesome,” “cool” and “fun.”

Last month, WEB leaders hosted an event where they baked over 600 cookies.  They then shared them with the 6th graders while everyone made valentines to give to veterans.

Both the 6th graders and 8th graders have fun with the activities. The three WEB leaders I interviewed said the reason for the fun atmosphere is due to the two teachers who run the program, Jim Nitz and Darlene Riefel.

“There’s so much positive energy,” said Maryellen, a WEB leader. 

You can tell Nitz enjoys working with the kids. He believes the program improves the climate and atmosphere of the school.

“The program is a huge benefit to the 6th graders and the 8th graders to learn leadership skills and understand how to be a good role model,” Nitz said.

The WEB leaders are positive role models and get a boost of self-confidence that they’re able to assist the younger students.

“It makes me feel happy and proud that I get to help them,” says Laura, an 8th grader.

Riefel agrees, saying the program “causes the school to be more unified and makes them more of a family.” 

That’s just what a nervous 6th grader needs when entering middle school – a second family to support, encourage and put him at ease while showing him the ropes of succeeding in middle school.