Recently, while people were posting thoughts and prayers on social media, students at Pomolita Middle School used a penny drive to raise more than $2,000 for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Teacher Kaitlyn Gentry spearheaded the effort with the help of her “Where Everyone Belongs” (WEB) students.
“With staff support, I worked with WEB students to put bags and boxes in every classroom so students could donate. It was amazing. Kids brought in their piggy banks and emptied them. One class raised $668.00. Now we’re rolling coins so we can send the money to the Red Cross,” Gentry explained.
This fundraising event is one of many WEB activities, according to Principal Bryan Barrett. “WEB involves seventh and eighth grade student leaders who help organize activities, welcome new students, and promote a supportive campus culture,” he said. Gentry teaches the WEB class and works with counselors Heath McNerney and Naomi Rhodes to oversee the larger WEB program.
“Last year, 150 students applied to participate in WEB, and we chose the top 50 candidates. Eighteen are enrolled in the class and the rest participate by attending meetings at lunch or after school, and by working together to put on dances, plan rallies and assemblies, organize movie nights and rec nights, and so much more,” she said.
Gentry explained that WEB students are not necessarily honor roll students. It is a diverse group that represents the school, a group that must be willing to work hard and serve as an example to other students.
In August, WEB students began the school year three days early to attend WEB training and to host a new-student orientation, during which they introduced incoming sixth graders to the campus and provided activities that helped reduce the new students’ anxiety about their transition to middle school.
Gentry said that after orientation, new students see WEB students as a “familiar face, someone who makes them feel safe and comfortable.”
WEB is one of several opportunities for Pomolita students to get involved in leadership activities. Students can run for office to become ASB representatives; they can enroll in the standard leadership class, or they can participate in WEB.
Gentry is the WEB teacher and coordinator, the ASB coordinator, the basketball coach, and—the majority of the day—a sixth grade teacher.
“Kaitlyn is amazing,” Barrett said. “She has so much energy and enthusiasm. Every time I talk to her, she has a new idea about some great activity for students.” Barrett noted that the first dance of the year was the best-attended since he became principal eight years ago. “Kaitlyn helps the WEB students understand what it takes to be successful.”
Gentry works closely with fellow staff members to provide students with opportunities to learn new skills. Many of the WEB students also participate in other leadership and extracurricular activities. For example, Gentry works with digital media teacher Jonathan Dewey to make sure school activities organized by WEB students are announced in the digital news program produced by students http://bit.ly/2z3wT5M
“The digital media students are really respectful. They ask for permission to film and schedule appointments ahead of time. It’s a huge amount of responsibility and they do a great job,” she said.
Currently, Gentry and Dewey are working together to coordinate online ASB elections. Candidates have video-recorded their campaign speeches. Students can view the speeches on their Chromebooks and vote online during the three-day election period.
Stay abreast of Pomolita news at www.pomolita.uusd.net.