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7th and 8th graders hear wisdom from high school leadership class

Staff reports

Seventh and 8th grade students at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School benefited last week from the wisdom of some high school students.

Counselor Mary Woolery said the student assistance committee, made up of teachers, decided to provide the same prevention programs she has been delivering in the classrooms with a variety of speakers. Each grade got a whole day of information from the Family Support Council, the American Cancer Society and DHS students from the leadership class.

“They listen more to their peers and feel like (the high school students) know what life is like, so having role models up there was extremely helpful,” Woolery said. “Even the teachers I talked to were extremely impressed how poised they were in their presentations.”

The high school students gave presentations on popularity and fitting in as a high school student.

“I wanted them to be able to contradict some of the negative impressions (middle school students) have of the high school and give some information,” Woolery said. “Some of the kids are afraid of things like initiation or that they’ll get lost. I wanted them to feel more comfortable about going to the high school, so while here, they will do well and they are set up academically when they get (to DHS).”

The message to the students was they can choose to remain drug and alcohol free and still be popular. The DHS students talked about abstaining from sexual relationships and gave their own experiences as examples.

Woolery said the students also talked about how they stay motivated to do well in school and not resort to unhealthy lifestyles, even if they have personal problems.

Ninth grade peer education students from PWLMS – Lauren Clark, Jesse Scott, Niki Newbold, Shannon Adams, Chelsea Suschena, Ryan Wilson and Angel Campbell – presented to the 7th and 8th graders about drug prevention.

Woolery said she got positive feedback from students about the presentation from Deborah Van Bruggen and Tammy Taylor of Family Support Council about how to talk to their parents.

Eighth graders got a presentation on healthy relationships by Marty Graham-Jones of FSC.

“We came up with possible topics and surveyed the staff and the leadership group,” Woolery said. “A lot of students start going out in the 7th and 8th grades, and unfortunately, get into relationships where they have conflict or start being very manipulative of each other. So we talked about how to recognize when they are in a relationship that can turn physically abusive or can be emotionally manipulative and how to solve conflict; how to be respectful if they don’t agree.”

Col. Peter Flemming of the American Cancer Society spoke to the 7th graders about his experiences with cancer caused by chewing tobacco.

“Many of the students said they wished their parents could have seen it. They were very affected by the presentation because and the person who did it has cancer from chewing tobacco. He is now suffering the effects even though hadn’t chewed in years,” Woolery said.

Other students who gave presentations were DHS students who talked about sexual harassment and gender discrimination and Rite of Passage students who talked about conflict resolution and anger management.

Woolery said the feedback was very positive, but she said it is up to the student assistance committee to decide if the program will continue.

“The students thought it was wonderful. They felt the students showed a lot of courage by stepping forward and presenting. Some of the feedback I got was that it was a really big lesson in treating people with respect and that they really related to the things the speakers were talking about,” she said.

Woolery said the student assistance program also provides cross-age tutoring, an in-house mentoring program, peer education program and student support and counseling groups.