(Rome City Schools media release):

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, on Friday November 19, West End Elementary embraced their students and shared their passions as they participated in their ongoing student advocacy program, WEE Love.

Principal Dr. Dennis Drummond said that the program takes place about four times throughout the school year.

“On these special days,” he explained, “we’ll set aside 45 minutes in the afternoon and we’ll stop all normal activities. Every adult in the building will have chosen something that they are passionate about and they will teach the students about that thing. It could be photography, basketball, cooking, hiking, or even fishing.”

“The purpose,” Drummond said, “is for our students to build relationships with some adults in the building that they might not normally interact with. Our goal is that all of our kids have multiple advocates in the building. We teach kids that an advocate is a helper, and we want the kids to have multiple people in the building with whom they feel comfortable talking to if they have a problem.”

Drummond said that everyone is involved in WEE Love. “We use all of our homeroom teachers and then we also use all of our support staff: our counselor, our assistant principal, our gifted teachers, special education

teachers, ESOL teachers, and paraprofessionals. Everyone has a group, and that enables us to lower the number of students per group so that they each get a lot of one-on-one interaction with the adult.”

The program is of benefit to all involved. While building relationships, teachers are also able to share things that they are passionate about; a win-win for WEE!

Counselor and WEE Love Coordinator, Kathryn Palmer, said that the program really helps humanize the teachers and staff. “It enables the students to see us as humans,” she explained. “For example, they get to see that their science teacher is interested in movies or comic books just like they are. We get to build that relationship over something that we enjoy as adults, but they also might enjoy as kids. It’s just a really cool experience.”

It’s evident that the students really look forward to WEE Love days. Palmer said that she has had students reach out to her via a Google Form that offers the students an additional way of communicating with her.

“At least twice this year, before we started WEE Love,” she explained, “kids messaged me asking when we were going to start this year. Last year was sort of truncated because of COVID, so we really hadn’t done the program fully for two years.”

Palmer said she feels that advocacy is already ingrained in the RCS culture and that being able to build on those relationships with the kids is the cherry on top.

“The students know what an advocate is, and that’s our goal is to have students know what that means; to have them know us and know our names, and I think it’s about having a presence.”

Drummond explained the origin of WEE Love, “We do accreditation every five years and one of the recommendations about six or seven years ago was building an advocacy program. One of Mr. Louis Byars’ visions as Superintendent was that he wanted every boy and girl at Rome City Schools to have advocates at school; people who would stand up for them and be there to talk with them if they had any problems. He challenged the entire system to come up with a plan of how to have an advocacy program at your school. So, Miss Palmer and I put together something that would work for West End. All the schools within the RCS system have something similar but WEE really wanted to design our program around things that we are passionate about.”

As new interests are nurtured and new relationships are built and maintained, WEE Love is a mainstay program that will only strengthen connection and conversation for the students at West End.