The school year has gotten off to a bit of a different start for the OJUSD Class of 2025.
Last week incoming seventh graders of Oakdale Junior High were treated to an inaugural event as participants in WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) orientation event.
The event was hosted Thursday, Aug. 1 as a follow-up to the school’s Roundup event hosted on Wednesday, July 31.
“We’ve had components of it in the past, a long time ago,” OJHS Health Teacher and Certified WEB Coordinator, Lori Vargas shared.
Vargas has spent the past 18 years of her career teaching in some capacity at OJHS. The teacher shared, she initially received an e-mail from Principal Jon Webb expressing an interest in sending someone to a three day WEB conference and integrating it into the junior high campus.
“We had components of transition from sixth grade to seventh grade but I think the more connections you make with those sixth graders coming in and being seventh graders … the more the better,” Vargas said of the four hour event. “With WEB there’s studies that have been done, that if you can get that transition smooth and if kids are recognized and feel welcomed in their new school, that helps them in high school. That helps them with all the transitions.”
As a veteran teacher at the junior high, Vargas noted the importance of students having connection and feeling comfortable as they transition from an elementary environment to the upper grades. Through the WEB orientation students gathered in the school gym first thing Thursday morning and were broken into groups led by eighth grade peers.
“We had to expect anywhere from five kids to show up to 400 kids to show up,” she said of preparing for the event. “I had over 50 kids participate (as leaders). Fifty-three eighth graders showed up and literally met me at the gym at 7:45 a.m. that Monday morning.”
The upperclassmen attended two days of training to prepare them for the leadership role with the seventh grade class on Thursday. Vargas shared close to 275 seventh graders attended the orientation. A number which was short of the actual class total and the school hopes to increase next year.
“Next year I would advertise it more before, so that there is more of a connection with the sixth graders,” Vargas said of future plans.
As a result of the WEB addition to campus activities, there is also now a WEB class for eighth grade students, led by Vargas. The teacher began recruiting students for the back to school activity as well as the class after returning from the conference.
“It’s all about positivity. It’s all about welcoming kids in,” she said of the mission of WEB. “It’s all about letting kids know they have a place here. It’s important for kids to have that connection.”
During the morning activities, students were broken into group of nine to ten students with two to three leaders. Ice breaker activities were staged in the gym, students were also toured around the campus by their eighth grade peers as well as given campus tips to make the transition easier.
“I think the leadership opportunity for the eighth grade students is good,” she noted. “It’s empowering them to be kind and I like that. I like that a lot. With the seventh grade students, hopefully just having that connection to the school. That’s what I’m hoping for. It’s never bad to have another route for kids to have a contact with somebody.”