Visitors find out how other half learns
Exchange seeks to turn rivals into friends
As she sat in the conference room at Lexington Trails Middle School, eighth-grader Aubree Casper admitted Tuesday her fellow students at Monticello Middle School have preconceptions of what the peers in De Soto are like.
Pressed on what the stereotype might be, Casper reluctantly said "hillbillies." She quickly told the two Lexington Trails eighth-graders at the table that the word was an overstatement and didn't actually describe the stereotype.
For their part, Lexington Trails eighth-graders Jennifer Hill and Leslie Hodges said students at their school tended to view those in the west Shawnee middle school as "snobby."
Despite the preconceptions, a second Monticello Trails eighth-grader at the table, Jill Buery, said the students at both schools were much alike. The main difference between the schools was that Lexington Trails was smaller, she said.
The four eighth-graders all participate in the ambassador programs at their respective schools, said Lexington Trails counselor Angie Russell. As such, they are assigned to help newly enrolled students adapt to their new surroundings.
"We show them around, eat with them and introduce them to people," Casper said. "We become their best friend."
The Monticello Trails ambassadors are kept busier than their Lexington Trails counterparts. Russell said the De Soto school had about 20 newly enrolled students a year, while Buery estimated the rapidly growing subdivisions in west Shawnee add 50 new students each year to her school.
"We've had seven so far this year in just the eighth grade," she said.
Tuesday was part of a two-day exchange of ambassadors between De Soto USD 232's two middle schools, Russell said. The exchange gave the ambassadors a taste of what the new students they befriend experience. Wednesday, it was the turn of the De Soto students to visit Monticello to learn what it was like to contend with surroundings and faces, Russell said.
It is also hoped the exchange will help build understanding and friendships between the two rival schools, Russell said.
The four eighth-graders said those friendships already exist. So much so, that Casper and Buery said they had an edge on most students new to their school. They both have longtime friendships with a number of De Soto students, the two girls said.
The visitors liked the newly remodeled Lexington Trails and the small classes. They weren't used to going to a school with two floors, they said. But Casper said all differences ended when classes started and textbooks were opened.
"They're studying the same things we are," she said.