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Something happens at John Jay Middle School even before first period: Homebase. It’s a consistent fifteen minutes set aside for community and connection.
“We practice being our best selves as a community through through activities, projects, and events,” said Assistant Principal Shantel Brooks, the administrator in charge of Homebase.
One of the projects is hanging in the middle school cafeteria—the We R 1 Community mural, created during the Sixth Grade Meet & Greet. The entire school has been signing it.
Ms. Brooks led a Homebase leader orientation during the summer. She and the Homebase Committee also meet monthly with the eighty student leaders to discuss how it’s going and give them different activities to do with their groups. Homebase on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is generally used for specific activities. Other mornings have no agenda other than catching up with friends, reviewing homework, and studying for exams.
All students are assigned to a Homebase teacher in sixth grade. They stay with that teacher throughout their middle school experience. Younger students are integrated in each year, making a mixed community of sixth, seventh, and eight graders. A student leader, not the teacher, is in charge of the group.
At the end of each year, the group votes for a rising seventh or eighth grader as the new Homebase leader.
Ms. Balassi’s Homebase voted in Ara Beigi, an eight grader, as their student leader.
“Ara is smart, funny, and takes his role seriously,” said Balassi. “He gets the kids together.”
Ara and other Homebase leaders recently ran an activity called “The Company You Keep.” The students grouped and regrouped into the categories that Ara called out such as being left handed, loves to be awake early in the morning, and prefers math over science and English language arts.
The students found they had something in common with everyone.
Leadership development is a student experience that runs quietly alongside the academic track at Katonah Lewisboro School District. Through a rich variety of initiatives, students learn the life skills of developing relationships and guiding, inspiring, and organizing others.