Journal-Advocate (Sterling)

SMS excited to see SOS program return

Students also benefiting from ASSET Club, new peer tutoring program

- By Callie Jones cjones@ prairiemou­

Birdhouses and jewel art made by Sterling Middle School students were on display for a RE-1 Valley School Board meeting Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (Callie Jones/sterling Journal-advocate)sterling Middle School is excited to be getting its Sources of Strength program back on track. The RE-1 Valley School Board heard about that and other programs at SMS during a tour of the school Monday.

SMS had previously implemente­d Sources of Strength, a youth suicide prevention project designed to harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying and substance abuse, but then COVID-19 happened and staff left and it sort of went away.

“It was the thing that this staff wanted, was to get back to the Sources of Strength,” SMS Principal Bob Hall said.

They were able to do that this year with the return of Ryan Einspahr, social emotional learning specialist, and band teacher Risa Lamorie (Wallace) moving to a new position as student services coordinato­r.

Einspahr shared that the current eighth graders, who were sixth graders when SOS was first implemente­d, so they already know about the program and are “really excited about getting it going.” Right now, they are focused on trying to educate seventh and sixth graders on what the program is. The school has 35 eighthgrad­e peer mentors and recently the peer leaders have visited each classroom during Tiger Time to talk about SOS, share their stories and ask their classmates about their stories.

“What we’re working on now is it’s time for the kids to take it over. This is their building; Sources is theirs. We had a couple of ideas that didn’t really work out quite yet, but they’re still excited, we’re still looking forward with some things. Come the holiday

season they’re going to start spreading some positive messages on lockers,” Einspahr told the board.

“They’re excited about it, we’re excited about it. It’s a culture thing. It’s theirs, that’s why we want them to take ownership of it because that’s when they care, when they know it’s theirs,” he said.

Other things he is involved in include working closely with Northeaste­rn Junior College athletics. Coaches have had positive responses when he asked if they are willing to send their athletes over to SMS to spend time with the younger students, something that used to happen in years past.

“I think it’s a great opportunit­y for our students; yes they know basketball and volleyball, but these players come from not only all over the United States, but all over the world, so getting our students to meet with them and learn from them, that’s a great opportunit­y,” Einspahr said.

Lamorie (Wallace) spoke about SMS’S partnershi­p with the Family Resource Center serving as host for the center’s Teen ASSET Club, which happened through a grant the district received. Asset Club is a time for teens to stay after school to get homework help, do different activities and enjoy dinner together.

“It’s really cool to see kids in that more family dynamic and it’s cool to provide that space for them to have some more positive mentors in their lives and to have some happy times that they can share with us,” Lamorie (Wallace) said.

ASSET Club meets every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Lamorie (Wallace) thanked Elizabeth Mauler, RE-1’S special education director, for her efforts in spearheadi­ng that partnershi­p and helping to organize the grant.

The student services coordinato­r also spoke about the new peer tutoring program she’s started.

“I know how crucial peer mentorship is. My background is in band and that’s all that I would focus in on; that’s how you build a program — you get the older kids to really mentor and craft the younger kids to love it, to be passionate about it, but also to show them this is the culture, this is what we do,” Lamorie (Wallace ) said.

She had wanted to get some high schoolers involved, but that didn’t work out. Instead, NJC students are coming to the school Tuesdays and Thursdays to help tutor the students.

“I really have seen huge growth with the eighth graders. I have 15 peer mentors and they’re all eighth graders and they tutor down to seventh and sixth graders, sometimes eighth graders as well. It’s one-on-one tutoring and it’s really been amazing to watch some of these students just flourish. The mentors are amazing,” Lamorie (Wallace) said.

Lastly, she spoke about the e-sports club she has formed after getting the idea from Sterling High School teacher Hee Hun Cho. They meet every Wednesday and Thursday right after school until 5 p.m., playing video games, hanging out and building a team. Lamorie (Wallace) said they are just now ready to start doing a bracket in Mario Kart and competing against each other.

“You have to be eligible for it, so they have to keep their grades up,” she said.

Later, Hall thanked Anthony Serrato for his efforts stepping into the athletic director position in addition to his teaching duties and working to add sixth graders into sports teams in a short three-week period.

“He did a tremendous job of getting everything organized. It’s gone really well because of his organizati­on and his vision on how everything was going to fit together, because it didn’t fit together right away like we wanted it to but we got it going,” Hall said.

The board’s tour of the school also included a visit to the classroom of Debbie Marshall, a sixth through eighth grade life skills special education teacher. She spoke about helping students memorize their name, address, phone number and birthday by writing it down every day; the world puzzle students are working to complete as they finish different tasks; and the life skills they are learning including cooking and doing laundry.

At the end of the tour, the board visited the auditorium, to see the new LED lighting that was installed just in time for the holiday concert season and hear a performanc­e from students in David Mitchell’s drum line explorator­y class.

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