For senior Hayley Hart, the caretaker role comes naturally.
“I have four other siblings I take care of,” she said.
It puts her in the perfect position as the upperclassman in her EPIC group at the Fort Plain Jr./Sr. High School. The Every Person is Connected Program groups about 10 students from each grade level 7-12 with a staff member who is a mentor. The program aims to help students build relationships with the staff and their peers.
“If a student is not connected otherwise to the school, either through a sport or an extracurricular activity, everyone has EPIC in common,” school counselor Kayla Mahoney said.
This is EPIC’s second year at the high school. Kickoff for the program was celebrated on Friday, Sept. 20. Groups met and welcomed the new seventh graders who moved up from the Harry Hoag Elementary School this year.
Eighth grader Delana Tracki said EPIC helped her transition between buildings as she moved up last year from the elementary school to the high school.
“Our group is a place to open up,” she said.
“The older kids are more mature, and they are easier to talk to, so we can trust them more,” eighth grader Scerenity LaValley said.
Junior Cameron Tamsett said Mahoney, his group’s mentor, is someone he feels comfortable asking for help. He says she helps him stay on track with his school work.
“She makes sure we’re taken care of,” Tamsett said.
The teams will stay together year after year. They meet about once a month on a rotating basis. A typical session might include a team-building exercise to build trust, an artistic activity to spur creativity, or a discussion aimed at exposing the students to new ideas, new activities and new people.
Friday’s events featured lunch in groups, an ice cream social, outdoor team-building exercises, and an assembly with the group Sweethearts and Heroes. Students heard from motivational speakers Tom Murphy and Rick Yarosh about the impacts of bullying and messages of bystander empowerment, empathy and leadership.