Flight School: Fostering a Sense of Community and Belonging at the Montverde Academy Middle School

Flight School is the Middle School orientation program for rising sixth graders at Montverde Academy. Oftentimes, students feel a great deal of anxiety transitioning from the Lower School to the Middle School – or from an outside school into MVA as a sixth grader. Not only do students feel apprehensive about the larger amount of responsibilities at the Middle School, but they also worry about being in a different building and physically navigating their class schedule. “Back when I was first starting sixth grade,” said Layla Busby, an eighth-grade volunteer at Flight School, “I was struggling a lot with finding everything and making sure I was ready because I was really nervous.”

At Flight School, students have a chance to get all of their questions answered. They get to meet their teachers and new administrators, and they get to physically walk through their schedule (in order) so their schedule will feel more natural to them on the following Monday. “But being at Flight School,” Layla continued, “and having so many volunteers helping me, I understood what I needed, where I needed to be, and at what time.” Layla wants to give back and help the incoming sixth-grade class to feel as comfortable as she was made to feel.

Flight School is managed primarily by our student volunteers who recently finished sixth grade themselves, so they are able to offer advice based on their recent experiences and also be a welcoming face for incoming students. These same volunteers greet them the following Monday and ask them if they remember where they’re supposed to be going. Doing so makes the incoming students immediately feel like they are part of the MVA community. Dylan Bova, an eighth-grade volunteer, said, “I love Flight School because it’s a good way to meet new people and make them feel comfortable, especially if they are new families to the school.”

This year’s Flight School had an extraordinarily high number of student volunteers, which is a true testament to MVA’s generous and empathetic culture, a culture that values creating a sense of community for everyone who walks through the doors. “My brother is going into sixth grade,” said Brooke Burton, an eighth-grade volunteer. “Since I know how nervous he’s feeling, I know other students are probably feeling the same way.” Turning their empathy into action is what these volunteers did best.