Lakota adds program for new students to be matched with ambassadors

The friendliest welcome for new students at a Lakota school is now a designated “friend.”

That’s the philosophy behind the first-year Lakota Ridge Junior School’s “ambassadors” program started in the fall by matching up transfer students — or those moving into the West Chester Twp. school system with their families — with a designated companion classmate.

Lakota Ridge officials said the program is a win-win for both the new student and their trained student ambassador during the initial weeks of adjusting to a new school.

Participating Ridge students sport bright-red T-shirts featuring their school name and the words “Student Ambassador” in an easy-to-spot logo when they are interacting with newly arrived students.

And since the start of the current school year in August there have been plenty of opportunities to don their T-shirts as about 100 of Ridge’s 650-plus enrollment is composed of students who came to the school after classes had begun.

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“From matching ambassadors with new students based on shared interests to actually selecting the student ambassadors, it is all very purposeful,” said Ridge counselor and Ambassador Group Advisor Kelly Carstens.

And planned out, said Carstens.

The scouting of potential ambassadors started toward the end of last school year as she planned the group’s launch for the 2022-2023 school year. The 26-member group was intact and training for their new roles over the summer, she said.

“The ambassador program is designed to raise the bar for our student leaders. I want them to inspire others and be inspired themselves to discover their leadership potential,” said Carstens.

She said her intent is to strengthen the leadership qualities that she recognizes in the students she chooses.

“I want them to be motivated by this opportunity and choose what to do with their charisma.”

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The ambassadors were honored at a recent Lakota Board of Education meeting where some members spoke of their experiences and what they have gained from the new program.

The students said they do much more than help their new friends open their lockers and find their classes.

They also mentor them in ways only their peers know how to do - introducing them to other students, sharing their experiences with after-school activities, calming their fears about particular classes, and cautioning them about important school rules and expectations.

Besides building connections with new students, Ridge’s ambassadors also serve as representatives for special visitors, summer tours and tours for incoming sixth-graders.

Ridge 8th grader and now ambassador Alex Winter was the new kid last school year when an informal classmate ambassador helped him to acclimate to the school.

“It sets people up like me to have a great two years here at Ridge,” Winter told the board.

Fellow ambassador Lma Abdoh echoed Winter, saying “it has helped me be the best version of myself and always make better choices.”

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