SIMS provides stress relief for junior high students

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The first day of junior high school can feel terrifying. Lunchtime seems shorter. The building is bigger…and I have to change rooms for each class? Where did the recess go? For students, it can be overwhelming and make the start of the school year difficult.

The Summer Institute for Middle Schoolers (SIMS) is a weeklong program started to calm anxieties of starting middle schools for both students and parents.

This is the first year of SIMS, and parents were desperate to take part. The program was funded for 100 students and 200 signed up. Out of those chosen, 50 kids are going into Winman and 50 going into Warwick Veterans Junior High School. Administrators have been collecting data through before and after surveys of parents and students in order to get a sense of what can be improved.

The program was funded through a grant submitted to the Rhode Island Foundation. Dr. Anne Siesel, Warwick Public Schools Coordinator of Federal Programs and Grants, wrote the grant.

“It gives students a chance to learn what it means to be a Winman Warrior or a Veterans Hurricane,” said Siesel. “The program came about in response to parents’ concerns about their children transitioning into middle school.”

This year, Warwick Veterans is under construction, so the entire program was held at Winman. In the following years, students will participate at the school that they’re attending. Throughout the week, students get the opportunity to meet their teachers and peers. They learn the layout of the school and get introduced to the different classes. For example, students made piñatas as part of their Spanish class.

Helping the new students learn the ropes were the 8th grade ambassadors. They worked with each group to give a different perspective of how 7th grade actually runs. Tessa, an 8th grade ambassador from Winman, has a sister in SIMS. Their mom had heard about the ambassador program, and Tessa wanted to pitch in.

“The kids were saying it was a great program and they learned a lot,” said Tessa.

Nurses, social workers and guidance counselors act as support staff for children suffering from anxiety.

“I’ve been a little worried about going to a new school,” said Maya, who is going into her 7th grade at Winman. “I’m glad I did it. I learned my way around and met teachers and other students.”

SIMS ended the week with a performance of “Best Day of My Life.” Veterans’ teachers Jean McGeary and Michelle Devine spent one hour a week working with the students on this performance.

“Never in a million years did I think something this good could come together in one week,” said Brenda Resendes, Program Leader of SIMS. “At the beginning of the week, no one knew each other. Now they have friends for the first day.”

Following the performance, students shared skits that they had worked on. The group from Winman performed a skit on the consequences of bullying, while the group from Veterans focused on including classmates.

Warwick Public Schools start classes Sept. 5.

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