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Be a Big Fish

While a community of 400 preschool to 8th grade students may not seem like such a small pond, at Villa Academy, our middle schoolers are certainly the biggest fish.

Throughout the year, they impress us countless times as:

  • mentors and teachers to younger students
  • role models on sports teams and in clubs
  • center stage performers in music and drama
  • hosts and guides for visitors and guests 

The majority of our middle schoolers have been a part of our community their entire school career. They've risen through the ranks and are ready to flex their muscles as the leaders of the school. For those new to our school, getting up to speed as leaders is easy with the help of their classmates.

And, our faculty know exactly how to support all of them in their endeavor to be leaders.

We know that every 6th, 7th, and 8th grade student is a leader. Each has leadership qualities and brings unique strengths to our middle school classes and our community. Sometimes our job is to find and nurture those qualities. Sometimes we simply sit back and watch.

It's our annual Buddy-Ba-Looza and the Villa gymnasium echoes with laughter and cheers as the games begin. On center stage, a 6th grade boy helps his new 3rd buddy navigate a tricky hula-hoop-passing challenge. Our middle schoolers are running the show, pumping up the crowd and emceeing the event. It's time for everyone to get to know their new buddies! And, it's only the beginning of a yearlong partnership between the buddy pairs.

Throughout the year, the buddy pairs meet regularly to read, create, play, and learn together. Big and little buddies often work together on big tasks like auction class projects. As our 8th graders spend several months raising salmon from eggs, they share what they're learning with their Kindergarten buddies. And, each spring, the buddy pairs hike down to our waterfront where the Kindergartners have the honor of releasing the salmon fry into Lake Washington.

The patience and compassion we see in the older buddies is thrilling to watch. They remember how exciting it was to be the little one and how much they wanted to know so much and be so  BIG. Now it's the middle schoolers turn to read the stories, lead the projects, and watch over their buddies as they play. Now it's their turn to understand how it feels to be the mentor, the role model, and, often, the hero, in the eyes of a younger child.

At our annual Grandparents Grand Friends Day in early May, hundreds of family members spend the day on our campus, visiting classrooms, attending performances, and enjoying time with their students. For our 8th graders, events like Grandparent Grand Friends Day, our Open House, and admissions tours are their opportunity to share what they know about our school and our campus. They are the gracious hosts who answer questions, give directions, and provide assistance. They are our inhouse experts.

As part of our one-of-a-kind Student Emergency Response Team (SERT), 7th and 8th graders can learn how to assist faculty and staff with first aid, CPR, and other emergencies. They lead the younger students in safety drills, create how-to safety videos, and promote health and safety awareness throughout the school. Our student council of 8th graders strengthen our school community as they plan and run assemblies, all school spirit days, dances, and more.

Our middle school students certainly step up their game as members of our sports teams and clubs. With years of experience under their belt, they lead their teams to victory and encourage teammates in times of defeat. On the school newspaper, they mentor younger writers and designers. As part of our Green Team, they supervise large projects that care for our 31-acre campus. And, as band members and actors, they showcase their talents while inspiring and guiding younger participants.

By the time our students reach 8th grade, they've learned a lot about themselves as big fish leaders in our school's small pond. But, we know our work is not done. We want our graduates to be the best leaders they can be in 8th grade and in whatever communities they join as they grow up.

Each September, the 8th grade class spends three days with experts from AWSP’s Association of Washington Student Leaders. It's a time to add to their leadership toolbox with hands-on practice sessions. They practice planning events, facilitating groups, and reflecting on their own and other classmates' leadership strengths. The primary focus is shared leadership, with every student having an opportunity to excel.

By graduation day, our 8th graders have proven themselves as leaders and experts countless times. They leave Villa with confidence in their ability to use the leadership skills and strategies they've honed over their middle school years.