Co-Pilot Program Navigates New Students in the Right Direction

New students at St. Joseph’s Indian School are paired with a returning student to help ease the transition that comes with starting at a new school.

Imagine you’re 8-years-old arriving at a brand new school with hundreds of other boys and girls you’ve never met before. You’re miles from home and everything is new.

How would that make you feel? Maybe a little nervous? A little lost?

To make sure new students arriving at St. Joseph’s Indian School start the year off right, there’s the Co-Pilot Program. It is designed to assist incoming students in their transition to St. Joseph’s by pairing them with experienced students in an attempt to detour anxieties that come with starting at a new school.

“New students don’t feel so alone when they know there’s at least one person they can lean on right away,” said Colton, who organizes the Co-Pilot Program.

St. Joseph’s students gather around as Colton presents the Co-Pilot Program lesson.

The program was started at St. Joseph’s five years ago. Usually, close to 100 students in grades 1st-8th take part in the program every year. Returning students will give the new students a school tour and follow up with them multiple times throughout the week and at co-pilot meetings. The meetings run for five weeks during the first three quarters of the school year.

Meetings consist of a lesson and activity from Colton. Topics include things like homesickness, bullying, the importance of families and friends, and more! Bigger events take place sporadically throughout the year as well, such as co-pilot movie nights.

The program has seen positive results.

“You can see those quiet kids open up and share with a kid before they’ll feel comfortable sharing with an adult,” said Colton. “This program gives them that instant connection to help them settle in.”

And those connections appear to last. Colton said many friendships have been forged through the program.

“New students enjoy it so much, that they want to become co-pilots for other new students later on,” said Colton. “Many co-pilot pairs remain friends for years to come and seek each other out even when the year is over. Connections like that and knowing someone has their back is so important.”

Pilamayathank you – for supporting programs like this at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

6 thoughts on “Co-Pilot Program Navigates New Students in the Right Direction”

  1. What a great program, all schools should have a similar program.
    Especially for students transitioning from elementary school to middle school.
    Keep up your great work.

    God bless
    John Zinger

    1. Thanks, John! You’re right and our students love it. It helps knowing at least one familiar face when you’re sitting in class or on the playground.

  2. That first day, being in a new school without friends, and having to walk the long mile to an empty table at lunch time – in front of a hundred strangers, can make a child’s heart sink to their knees.

    To take that same walk with their co-pilot, can make a child’s heart soar higher than the Eagle can fly!

    What a wonderful program! St. Joseph’s Indian School – you give children the hope and the love and the courage to never give up .. no matter how dark the day or how lonely the night. May there always be a St. Josephs Indian School!

    1. Thank you so much, Jarry! You are so right in your statements and we feel so fortunate to have caring individuals support our school so things like this are possible.

  3. Sounds like a great program. I’m sure it’s a great way to get over the jitters and maybe even loneliness.

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