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Massena school welcomes students back with mentorship program

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MASSENA — Entering middle school for the first time can be a daunting task for some students, and the J.W. Leary Junior High School has brought back a successful orientation program this year to help with the process.

Fifty-one eighth-graders are part of the school’s WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) Crew this year and spent Thursday taking part in mentoring activities with the incoming seventh-graders.

Sporting bright orange T-shirts, the WEB leaders formed long lines to officially welcome the class of 2020 into the school’s gymnasium at 8 a.m.

“They’re here to mentor these kids and they’re hoping to use this to make the transition smooth and to help prevent bullying,” Principal Burton L. Peck said.

“This is our second year implementing WEB at the junior high. It’s a transition program to help our seventh-graders come to junior high,” WEB program director Christine Sweet said. “They’re coming from four different elementary schools — Nightengale, Jefferson, Madison and Trinity — and so now our point is to try and mingle everybody so it’s not just the Nightingale kids sticking together and the Madisons sticking together. We want to try and mix everybody up.”

The number of WEB leaders is up from 35 last year.

The program is similar to Massena Central High School’s Link Crew program, which is part of the larger Boomerang Project, designed to transition students to new schools.

“I like helping the other younger kids. Today went really well. It was very organized and everyone did really well,” WEB leader Kali Joslin said.

Before being selected as WEB leaders, the older students had to fill out applications and go through numerous training sessions.

“They spent two days training to be a mentor and then on orientation, which is today. They’ve all now been assigned 10 seventh-grade students that they’re going to mentor all year. So it starts today, but it lasts throughout the whole year,” Ms. Sweet said.

“This is our orientation. This is our big event, but then there will be smaller events throughout the year that they can get with their group and make that connection and help them out with questions and anything that is on their mind.”

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