Where Everybody Belongs mentors inspire students and the community

Mimi Promo Willoughby Eastlake November
WEB mentors from Willoughby-Eastlake Schools volunteer all over town, like at the Lake Metroparks Halloween hayride.

By Mimi Vanderhaven

Studies show that if students have a positive experience their first year of middle school, their chances for overall success increase dramatically.

To help kids transition to those sometimes-overwhelming middle school years, the students and teachers at Willoughby Middle School introduced the year-long WEB “Where Everybody Belongs” mentoring program last year.

“Our group of about 50 eighth grade student leaders is dedicated to helping incoming sixth grade students adjust to the new demands of middle school, help to develop peer relationships, and set good examples for the school and the community by volunteering,” says Victoria Dodich, who is the WEB Coordinator and a sixth grade teacher at Willoughby Middle School. She was specially trained in the nationally known program during a three-day course in Michigan.

She explains that the leaders are chosen through an application process along with teacher recommendations.

“Leaders serve as mentors and friendly faces in the hallways,” she says. “They implement mini lessons about achieving academic success and character development in the sixth-grade classrooms.”

For instance, a recent lesson that was well-received explored how attitude affects your daily life. The group also hosts a series of social events especially for the sixth graders, such as a cookie decorating/hot chocolate bar gathering during the holidays and the school dance.

The students take their position as positive role models quite seriously, and, over the school year, can be seen volunteering all around town. (The photo accompanying this story is from the recent Lake Metroparks Halloween hayride.) You’ll also see them working at the Edison Elementary Carnival, Woman’s Day event held at Grant Elementary and working concessions at home sports events for Willoughby Middle School.

Giving back to the community in other ways, such as babysitting, dog sitting, yard work and helping out at the Willoughby 5K, is important for them as well.

You may notice their smiling faces volunteering at the Country Lights at Lake Metroparks FarmPark when it opens Friday, November 29, and helping WMS teacher Mrs. Bush package candy for her “Sweets for Soldiers” program.

“We hope to increase student achievement, enhance character development and let incoming middle schoolers know this is a positive atmosphere where they belong,” says Miss Dodich.

Look for these monthly stories to cover topics from grades K-12 in the Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools System. For details, visit WESchools.org.