By Sarah Lavender Smith
Piedmont Middle School recognized and thanked several dozen students last week for improving the school’s culture and its peer relationships through their involvement with Ambassadors, a weekly roundtable discussion formed two years ago as part of the Wellness Center’s Peer Education and Leadership Service programs.
“You guys are committed to this school, and you are courageous, because you break the code of silence by helping us out or by going directly to the person if you see things happening, so thank you so much,” Principal Jeanne Donovan told some 70 6th, 7th and 8th graders who gathered on Thursday, May 31, for a special lunch in their honor.
Ambassadors meet during the school year at lunchtime, and PMS counselors Kech Carera and Ashley English facilitate their discussion. Any student can join. “It’s a great way not only to make new friends but also to become a part of the larger school community and effect change to make Piedmont an even better place,” said English.
The students discuss issues of concern and collaborate to make the school a safer, more supportive community. The counselors then share the students’ concerns and ideas with the administration and faculty.
“I did listen and thank you for being part of the decision-making process at this school,” Vice Principal Eric Mapes told the Ambassadors, citing as an example the time Ambassadors raised the issue of too many tests scheduled on the same day. The administration and teachers subsequently worked together on scheduling to stagger test-taking on different days.
“I see a lot of future leaders looking at me right now,” Mapes added. “I hope you continue at the high school with your commitment to making the school site a better place.”
At the Ambassadors luncheon, students spoke about how the Ambassadors group not only improves the school but helps them personally as well. Seventh-grader Peter Schane said the communication skills and ideas developed through the Ambassadors meetings are things he shares and puts to use in his home.
“It’s nice we can join and do stuff that’s good for our school instead of just standing by,” he told the gathering. “It’s a privilege we have this program, because some other schools don’t and probably could use it.”
Sixth-grader Claire Devroede and eighth-grader Emma Seevak also spoke about the positive influence of Ambassadors, and the students watched an animated video about bullying directed by eighth-grader Colly Smith. Every Ambassador received a certificate of appreciation for their service to the Piedmont Middle School community.
Cathy Glazier, chair of the Wellness Center Steering Committee, explained that Ambassadors started two years ago as a way to involve as many students as possible in making a positive impact on the school climate.
“We wanted to initiate a program where kids could participate without having to try out, and have their voices heard,” she said, noting that other Wellness Center programs at the high school and middle school — such as Peer Mediation and Youth Educators — require an application and are open to a limited number of students.
The students gave flowers and heaped gratitude on the school’s two counselors, English and Carera.
Carera observed that some of the Ambassadors are more outspoken leaders while “others prefer to lead quietly from behind and model good behavior. We all make mistakes — that’s what middle school is about — but what really matters is that we each stretch ourselves in our utmost to do the best we can every day with everyone we come into contact with.”