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New Totem Middle School preps leaders for revised grade level

The more times you step out of the box, the more friends you make, said Totem Middle School student Kylie Rasmussen. She was one of three dozen students taking parting in a leadership development camp last week at the downtown campus. Totem is trying to get students to reach out to each other and step out of their comfort zone    the box    and reach out to others. -
The more times you step out of the box, the more friends you make, said Totem Middle School student Kylie Rasmussen. She was one of three dozen students taking parting in a leadership development camp last week at the downtown campus. Totem is trying to get students to reach out to each other and step out of their comfort zone the box and reach out to others.
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MARYSVILLE A new name and a completely new slate were a great opportunity to grow a new generation of leaders at Totem Middle School last week.
Getting a head start on the new school year, the school hosted a leadership training camp for about three dozen students who will comprise the new six-, seventh-, and eighth-grade configuration at the renamed Totem Middle School. As the former Marysville Junior High the State Avenue campus taught eight- and ninth-graders, meaning there will be no carryovers when school starts Sept. 4.
The goal of three days of exercises and games was to get kids to realize they are in the drivers seat more often than they realize. Stepping up to the plate will result in a more enriching learning environment and reduce the common adolescent problems of loneliness, alienation and bullying. To do that the new students must step up to the plate by stepping out of the box. That box is a persons comfort zone, according to Casey Zachary, a seventh-grader who led a demonstration for parents and teachers at the end of the leadership camp.
I hope they will actually learn from this and do this in school, Zachary said after watching her peers literally walk the walk outside the school cafeteria.
Zachary stood inside a box taped on the ground as she showed how people sometimes hold back. Often they are afraid to take the initiative and introduce themselves or reach out to someone different, someone they might not ordinarily chat with. That limits everybody.
Kylie Rasmussen got it.
The more times you step out of the box, the more friends you make, Rasmussen said.
And thats the key according to facilitator Mike Widell, a consultant with the Ignite company. These students will be teaching their peers throughout the school year and they can change the look and the feel of the school with their actions, Widell emphasized.
A key part of stepping out of your comfort zone is being willing to fail, several students said. Theres nothing wrong with failing, as long as you make the attempt, said eighth-grader Anthony Mack, who was sprucing up the cinderblock walls with new lettering.
If you make a mistake, you can learn from your mistakes, Mack said.
As one of the upperclassmen for the new school with a completely new student body, Mack said he felt the burden and opportunity to provide a good example to his peers, especially the younger students who look up their elders. They are going to need guidance with issues like facing the competing pressures of the parents and peers, especially on values, and drug and alcohol use.
Other kids at the school may watch you, so you watch your actions, Mack explained.
The camp broke down some inhibitions by literally getting the kids to literally step out. Everybody at the Aug. 23 finale had to do the catwalk, a gauntlet where teachers, students, parents and even principal Judy Albertson got into the swing of things. No limitations and no imitations were allowed as students did the cattiest, dorkiest, and funkiest struts. The budding leaders jumped right into the exercise, but Widell noted that three days before it took them 45 minutes to get over their inhibitions. It took about 45 seconds this time. That demonstrated the growth that occurred.
Every student can be leader in their own way, Widell said. Im so proud of these guys.
Tom Strum has taught language arts and social studies to seventh-graders at the school for two years and he cited efforts to increase student test scores. One way to increase achievement is by making school something kids look forward to. But many adolescents are going through one of the most difficult times of their lives, facing alienation and isolation. They also need to know their opinions count and that they can make an impact on their world.
These are young adults and they have great ideas, Sturm said.
Math and science teacher Jennifer Schmidt said she would like to reduce bullying on campus and create a sense of caring among the student body. Schmidt said one way to get students to change is to put the responsibility squarely on their shoulders.
Most of our staff wants to see change among our students, Schmidt said. Were just empowering students.
They are going to learn by showing other and themselves just what they are capable of. Totem students met with service organizations like the Marysville Kiwanis and the Marysville Parks and Recreation Department to learn how they can serve the community, Strum said, and they will be working with the citys health communities project.
Marysville School Board director Darci Becker watched the catwalk with a grin on her face.
I think its great, said Becker, who will have two kids in the district this fall. One had some problems with bullying in the past. I hope its good for the kids who are a little bit timid.

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