UP Program Directors Jesse Brooks and Pat LaClair have been working with Addison Northwest School District to design events that will help elementary school students from Ferrisburgh Central School (FCS) and Vergennes Union Elementary School (VUES) experience a smooth transition to the Vergennes Union Middle School (VUMS) community. This week, Communications Director Christie Beveridge sat down with Pat to hear about highlights from the most recent events: a panel discussion composed of middle school students and a Family Dialogue Night at FCS. The following are excerpts from their conversation. 

Tell me about the two events that have taken place so far: 

The events bring elementary and middle school students, teachers and parents/caregivers together to think about the transition to middle school. The transition looks different this year, as VUMS has expanded by one grade, so both 5th and 6th graders are moving up. The district connected with UP to support that transition. All the 5th and 6th graders took a survey that the youth-adult team created about their thoughts and feelings about moving up to middle school, and the team analyzed the results.

The data analysis informed how the students planned for their Family Dialogue night, and informed questions for the Middle School Panel, which all 5th and 6th graders attended. Both events took place on Thursday, April 18th. The panel was fantastic; the middle schoolers spoke for 45 minutes and took follow-up questions from the elementary school students. Their focus and energy was indicative that the students were hearing something interesting and important to them. 

The Family Dialogue Night was also really engaging, with 75 youth and adults showing up to participate! The amazing turnout was a testament to how much people in their community care about the school and the success of students. Dinner was provided by the school’s food service, and childcare was also provided. The group took part in a few collective activities, but the bulk of the evening was student-led circle conversations and break-out rooms. Ten Ferrisburgh students stepped up to co-lead conversations. 

There will be a VUES Parent/Caregiver Dialogue Night next week, and we believe it will be just as engaging! The adults supporting the teams at these schools have been incredibly supportive and involved in the design of the events, and are a big reason they have been so successful.   

What are the team’s next steps? 

The team’s next steps are to host the VUES Community Dialogue next week. The two communities will also come together at VUMS for an informational session in the coming weeks. We’re interested in sharing this process with other districts in Vermont, knowing how beneficial it has been to the elementary school youth and the entire school community.