NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- It was more than just ice cream with all the toppings.
The real aim of Isaac E. Young Middle School's recent Castle Ambassadors Ice Cream Social was to welcome new students to the middle school and reinforce the group's commitment to helping all students feel comfortable.
"Sometimes it can be hard making friends in a new school," said seventh-grader Leah Shefferman, one of about 15 Castle Ambassadors. "In the ice cream social, they could learn more about the school and maybe even meet some new people there."
It was one of many events from the group that began a year ago to build a friendlier, more tightly knit school community.
"School can be such an over-whelming experience, even more so when you start a new school during the middle of the year," said Assistant Principal Tawanda Robinson. "The Castle Ambassadors program is a wonderful way to build community and foster a sense of belonging for students. The research is clear that when students feel connected to their school and have positive and supportive relationships, they are more likely to excel."
One of the school's key goals is to create a student-centered environment where students are comfortable leading and have a voice in creating the type of school they want IEYMS to be. The ambassadors seek to create more student ownership in the culture of the school, decrease social isolation and create a positive, inclusive school environment. The program also helps develop students' leadership skills.
"The members of Castle Ambassadors truly drive the group's activities," said teacher Jennifer Vivolo-Carsen, an advisor of the group. "The ideas for Spirit Week, the discussion at the ice cream social and ideas for future activities are all from the students themselves. They have a strong desire to build a positive school community."
Last year, students were trained through the organization Sandy Hook Promise on how to develop a stronger school community.
Next week, they will start Motivational Monday, where they read an inspirational quote with the morning PA announcements to start off the week.
"It will get people motivated and make them feel better," Shefferman said.