Middle school is a crazy time with major life changes. The social, emotional and physical all converge. United Way's Middle School Success initiative aims to make the transition to middle school and then high school and then graduation more than just about survival. Community support, quality mentors and coaches, involved parents, and early responses to risky behavior strengthen the place we call home for all of us.
As summer vacation comes to an end for most area students, a few of the United Way team members reflect on their middle school days.
My middle school had a great principal for a while. He installed a juke box in the cafeteria. It was fabulous to eat and play music. Of course we found a way to get in trouble with it, and that was the most fun. Someone would play Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Then at the appropriate times the entire lunchroom of kids would stomp their feet and, of course, sing with the lyrics. The juke box got removed eventually, but not before we had a lot of fun with it.
I also got to take what were then unusual classes like French and Creative Writing, as well as various field trips. The school held dances and field days and other after school activities that rounded out our days. The extra attention that school administration, teachers, and the PTO gave to providing students with plenty of interesting learning activities and social activities really made a difference to my success in the middle school years. - Elizabeth Kelly, 2-1-1 Manager
Mr. and Mrs. Hetkowski were my sixth grade teachers and this shot is from our last day of class. I remember thinking that those two teachers were the most beautiful, good-smelling people on the planet and I wanted to do whatever I could to stay in their good graces. I had a horrible nervous stomach much of that year; the class work was getting harder and the load was so much bigger. I’d worry myself sick all the time about school but my teachers made me feel safe and cared for and I had no idea how I was going to survive life without them. I remember being terrified of what would come next year: junior high hallways and lockers and the changing of classrooms for every subject. It was harder at the new school but while none of my new teachers were as beautiful as Mr. and Mrs. Hetkowski, I learned just how great and dedicated they were to helping me succeed (even when I was being lazy and failed to do my science homework). - Elisabeth Bocklet, Director of Marketing & Communications
I met one of my best friends on the first day of middle school. Kim was the "new girl" and wanted to make new friends. She was thrilled to be included in our group those first few weeks. But one day, things suddenly changed. She arrived at school and was told we were going to pick “best friends” and she couldn’t have a best friend since she was new! For several days, Kim was excluded from the “best friend’s” activities. The good news is that we decided she could hang out with us the next week. Forty-five years later, I have no clear memory of that morning, but Kim recalls it like it was yesterday. I am horrified and ashamed that I was a part of it and wonder whom else I hurt over those years.
Middle school is a challenging time for many kids. If your daughter, niece, granddaughter or young friend is being teased or excluded, help her to see that the behavior is really about the “friends” who are treating her this way and not about her. Most importantly, be a sounding board if she needs to talk. - Nancy Craig, Senior Manager of Leadership Giving
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