Girl Scout project helps new students feel welcome

As a Girl Scout, local student Abby Esterheld was tasked with doing something to give back to her community. Working with her friends and fellow Girl Scouts Harper Semanchik, Vera Semanchik and Kylie Morgan, across three towns, the youngsters came up with the concept of starting welcome committees at their schools.

“We all found that the problem with new kids not feeling welcome enough is spread throughout the three of our towns,” Esterheld said. “We decided that this was the problem we would focus on.”

The friends’ Girl Scout Bronze Award project started last January, and the schools they had in mind were Clintonville Elementary School in North Haven, Haddam-Killingworth Intermediate School in Higganum and Orchard Hills Elementary School in Milford.

“At the end of the school year, Abby met with me to propose her idea of a welcome committee,” Clintonville principal Lauretta Dowling said. “She explained that she noticed how students would join Clintonville throughout the school year and felt that it must be hard for new students because the school year had already begun.”

Dowling said Esterheld, then a fifth-grader, laid out her plan to have current students act as ambassadors to help new students get to know the school and make new friends. 

“When Abby explained her idea, I was sold,” Dowling said. “Abby had a solution that helped new students make new friends and helped current students practice communication skills. It was a win-win.”

At Clintonville, art teacher Kaitlyn Lenti and music teacher Julie Luppino are advisors to the welcome committee.

“They are planning what this new welcome committee will look like in each grade level,” Dowling said. “We are all excited to provide opportunities for new and current students to get to know one another.”

Part of getting the Girl Scout Bronze Award entails working together in a group to solve a problem. Esterheld said she and her friends have bi-weekly meetings over Zoom to ensure they meet all their requirements for the award.

The girls created a packet with a list of questions for new students to answer so that their peers can get to know them. Esterheld also compiled a collection of items, including LEGOs, bingo cards and chips, and activity sheets, which can help students break the ice.



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