Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Thoughts on heading to high school

June 4, 2014

I love listening to young people! I learn so much from them. Today I’d like to celebrate their wisdom.

We’ve hosted an Adolescent Advisory Board since 1999. High school students from all 14 Washington County school districts and one Greene County district meet monthly to help us create peer-driven activities, critique curricula and provide insights into adolescent culture. I believe childhood is often truncated in our current culture. Middle-schoolers deal with pressures familiar to high-schoolers 25 years ago. Their voices are important.

During the 2013-14 school year, we initiated a new Junior High Advisory Board at Washington Junior High School. We partnered with Ester Clark Barnes of Southwest Training Services Inc. With the blessing and support of Dr. Roberta DiLorenzo, superintendent, Ken Patterson, junior high principal, and Tiffani Lusk, guidance counselor, Ester and I had the privilege of meeting monthly with 20 outstanding eighth-graders. Some of these Junior High Advisory Board students volunteered to perform the original play “Invisible” (written by the board members) at our Awards Night. Other board members were trained as peer leaders by my partner, Rich Podgurski, and taught seventh-graders drug and alcohol prevention. At our final meeting yesterday, they had advice for other middle–schoolers. I promised I’d dedicate today’s column to their words.

They responded to three questions: 1. You’ll be high school students next school year. Are there any exciting things you’re looking forward to in high school? If yes, what types of things make you look forward to moving up to ninth grade; 2. Are there any things about high school that make you feel anxious? If yes, what types of things make you feel anxious?; 3. Do you have any advice for the current seventh-graders as they prepare to enter eighth grade?

Diamon Butler: 1. I’m looking forward to having classes with “high-schoolers.” I also look forward to track and volleyball. 2. Yes, how the high-schoolers will treat us and how hard classes will be. 3. Try your best and don’t give up.

Alexandra Caldwell: 1. I look forward to volleyball and becoming friends with new people. And new classes, learning more and enhancing my education. 2. Being smaller than everyone else. 3. Stay open-minded, and remember school is not a game. You can’t play the first three nine weeks and then expect to pull up grades. Stay focused.

Siarra Demichelle: 1. I think my favorite part will be having the opportunity to make more friends and being introduced to new people. 2. I’m scared older kids will intimidate me and give me swirlies. 3. Watch out.

Mary Jablonski: 1. I’m definitely looking forward to having more privileges, being treated more respectfully as an older person, and most of all, eating lunch earlier. 2. Thinking about all the really important tests, the stricter teachers and possibly having classes with older kids makes me a little anxious. 3. My advice is do your homework, respect your peers and teachers, take tests seriously and be mature. Oh, and good luck.

Carlos Garcia: 1. More freedom. 2. The teacher and the classes. 3. Be good. Start off right and do good the first nine weeks.

Tayla Jay: 1. I’m happy to move up a grade because I’ll finally be a high-schooler. I am super excited to go to high school because I’ll get to participate in high school activities. 2. I feel anxious about high-schoolers. Will the other kids pick on us because we are younger? 3. Grow up. Being bad won’t get you anywhere.

Toni Maurer: 1. In high school I’m looking forward to all the school dances (homecoming, prom), learning new things and meeting new people. 2. High school itself is full of anxiety. How am I going to work out my anxiety? I’m going to wing it. 3. Dear seventh-almost-eighth-grader, you will grow and mature physically and mentally. Stay out of trouble, work hard and do your best. I promise it will be completely worth it when it’s over.

Evan Parr: 1. I’m really looking forward to high school, classes and sports. 2. I’m just ready to start. 3. Have fun.

Brandon Russi: 1. High school activities, bio, art, high school band. 2. The upperclassmen, teachers and work. 3. Grow up, be mature.

Ian Smith: 1. I’m looking forward to biology, sports and band. 2. The older kids. 3. Grow up.

Shelby Studt: 1. More privileges make me happy, plus we finally move up to the one place we will be for four more years equally. 2. High school means we’ll be growing up soon. I’m not sure if I’m ready to be an adult. 3. The teachers in eighth grade are positive, kind and more understanding than you expect.

Alexis Strawn: I’m looking forward to high school sports. 2. The classes I’m taking are making me anxious. 3. Grow up and start thinking better.

Maci Ward: 1. I’m looking forward to new teachers, different classes (like French) and meeting new people within my classes. 2. I’m a little anxious about finding all my classes, like math. 3. My advice to seventh-graders is to not take eighth grade lightly and to have responsibility.

Youth Champions

Thanks to our first Junior Advisory Board: Myckel Brown, Diamon Butler, Alexandria Caldwell, Siarra Demichelle, Shawn Dupain, Shelby Funk, Carlos Garcia, Mary Jablonski. Michael Jackson, Tayla Jay, Kameron Patterson, Toni Maurer, Alivia Montgomery, Evan Parr, Branson Russi, Nathaniel Shirey, Ian Smith, Alexis Strawn, Shelby Studt, Maci Ward

Good luck to all young people as they move forward.



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