In May We Focus on Middle School

Building social connections and opportunities for Juneau’s young people is one of the five focus or goal areas of R.O.C.K. Juneau (Raising Our Children with Kindness).

This month, the Year of Kindness for Kids action group is shining the light on middle school students. What are some of the amazing things happening in Juneau for young teens, and what are the needs of this age group?

Here’s what we know: With over 25 years of prevention research, we know that strong, positive relationships with parents and other caring adults protect adolescents from a range of poor health-related outcomes and promotes positive development. Youth-adult connectedness appears to be foundational for adolescent health and well-being.

The greatest gift or support for a young teen then is to receive steady, calm and supportive guidance from a caring adult. Having someone available and ready to offer just-the-right-amount of listening (really listening), asking questions that expands thinking, and the offering of support … all leads to successful learning.

Early adolescence is a busy time of life! There are so many changes with moving away from parent and adult guidance with life’s details, and then seemingly overnight — launching into independence! Change is happening inside the body and outside in the social world. Managing time, responsibilities, decisions, friends, preferences — all can be exciting and challenging.

With lots of amazing adult (and parent) support and shared planning, five students and a teacher from Floyd Dryden Middle School traveled to Scammon Bay this spring for the Sister School Exchange Program. Upon their return, five Scammon Bay students and their teacher traveled to Juneau to learn about our community. These 10 students (with lots of support) were able to reach beyond their own community to learn and appreciate the beauty and challenges of their peers in another region of Alaska, a truly rich and compassionate learning experience.

At Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, the 7th and 8th grade students of the Stikine House just completed a health project which culminated in a Health Fair which was attended by over 70 guests from the community including professionals in health fields. Students selected their own topics, completed research to then create a Health Campaign which was presented at the Fair. Topics included: anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide prevention, issues related to body image, outdoor survival, texting while driving, sports medicine, and topics related to the LGBTQ community. Students interviewed their peers and adults to create videos, commercials, and information about the impact of their topic. Teachers and staff are reporting an increase in kindness and seeking to understand others through the work of this project.

The BAM Afterschool Program (Body And Mind) offers a variety of fun activities at both Dzantik’i Heeni and Floyd Dryden middle schools, and serves about one quarter of the student body. BAM is always looking for more adults to lead or co-lead a class —imagine sharing your hobby or interest with eager learners! Contact C. Allen Truitt for more information,

You can make the difference in the life of a young person with a little attention and conversation. Juneau’s kids need more coaches, more mentors, more adults willing to lean into the ups and downs of learning about life with young teenagers. Share yourself with someone who needs you. Let’s work together to make Juneau a great place for kids.

“Be the person you needed when you were younger.” — Ayesha Siddiqi