Turning toward one another
The Athey Creek Middle School Turning Point sixth-grade event is exactly what it sounds like — a turning point. It's a chance to help ease the transition into middle school and give students a chance to meet each other, promoting an inclusive and welcoming environment.
"My brother was in sixth grade and he had a blast when he went to Turning Point," sixth-grader Ava Neudeck said. "It just sounded like fun — meeting new people — and it's just sixth- graders."
Turning Point is an annual event that divides the boys and girls into separate groups. This year, the girls Turning Point was on Sept. 26 and the boys event was on Sept. 28. A guest speaker came in and talked to students — a female for the girls and a male for the boys — about forming healthy relationships, and treating each other with respect and kindness. The students were then able to split off into smaller groups to take photo booth pictures and decorate frames, play games like volleyball and sit down for a pizza dinner.
"It is a night for all the new incoming sixth-graders to get together in smaller groups to meet each other, meet new people from different schools in a safe, fun environment where they get to make new friends," said Alaina Kuehn, co-chair of Turning Point and parent. "It builds community; it makes an easy connection in a small way that will grow bigger."
Eighth-grader Jenna Goodheart remembers when she went to Turning Point. She recalls being shy and uneasy.
"I was very nervous about the environment, and I didn't know very many people and so I'm trying to make their transition a lot easier than mine was," said Goodheart, who was one of the eighth-grade helpers at the girl's Turning Point. "It was a great experience for me. All these people, they don't know each other, so the whole part about being in that group is you get to meet all these knew people and then the relationships you can form throughout middle school."
Even though the event is optional, the majority of sixth-graders attend, along with about 50 eighth-graders who were trained through the WEB program — Where Everyone Belongs. This is a mentorship position that encourages older students to help out during events like orientation and Turning Point.
This also helps bring multiple grade levels together, hopefully creating comfort between the younger and older students.
Julie Widman, guest speaker for the girl's night, talked about bringing all students together and asked students to partner up for various team bonding exercises.
"I'm going to talk about needing to turn toward each other but that doesn't mean turn into each other, you get to be you," Widman said in her speech. "The question is: Will you turn? If you decide to turn toward each other, life is so much better together. Life is messy and hard together, but it is so much better together."