The transition from elementary to middle school is often a challenging time for students, but seventh and eighth grade members of the LaFayette Middle School Beta club are helping to make the change a little easier through the club's Beta Buddies service project. The project recently earned the school recognition from National Beta, which presented the LaFayette Middle School club with its 2020 Hall of Fame Service Award.
Beta Buddies is a peer mentoring program that pairs LaFayette Middle School sixth graders — who are nominated for the program because of academic struggles, problems fitting in socially or bullying issues — with older members of the school's Beta club.
"When they come into our school, they're coming from five different feeder schools, and so when they come in here they have a whole new group of kids and there's struggle," LaFayette Middle School Beta club faculty sponsor Elizabeth Edwards said. "The first two months of school, it's a struggle."
The Beta club mentors spend dedicated time with their "buddies" and help them with whatever issues they may have. Beta Buddies mentor MacKenzie Nelson said she worked with her buddies on developing good study habits, making friends, standing up for themselves if they get picked on, and even simple things like opening their lockers.
"For me, I remember the work overload and being really stressed out at home," Beta Buddies mentor Ella Maples said of her own sixth grade experience.
So when she was paired with her Beta Buddy, she said she focused on helping him with his time management so he could get his work done without feeling so overwhelmed.
"It helped not only with his grades, but his behavior improved," said Ella, who wants to be paired with a new buddy next year as an eighth grader.
Edwards recalls a particularly small sixth grader who was being picked on, until he was paired with a Beta mentor who immediately announced in the hallway that anyone who wanted to pick on her buddy would have to go through her first. The bullying stopped and his grades improved, but when he went on to high school Edwards learned from a parent that kids were bullying him again — until his former Beta Buddy made a similar announcement and the teasing stopped.
The boy's mother later stood up at a transition meeting for new sixth graders at LMS and praised the Beta Buddies program, stating that her son is proof that it works.
A service project with significant impact on a school, community or state is what the team of National Beta alumni are looking for when selecting the recipient of the Hall of Fame Service Award, which is awarded to only one Junior Beta club in the nation each year, according to a news release.
National Beta is the nation's largest independent, nonprofit youth educational organization, with 600,000 active members in 9,000 national and international clubs, the release said.
Contact Emily Crisman at email@example.com or 423-757-6508. Follow her on Twitter @emcrisman.