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Ambassadors Welcome New Students to Ridge Family

Ambassadors Welcome New Students to Ridge Family

For the 100-plus students who joined Ridge Junior after the start of the current year, what better way to step foot in a new school mid-year than with an instant friend? This is the premise of the school’s new ambassador program that empowers students to own the onboarding experience for their new peers. 

“It sets people up like me to have a great two years here at Ridge,” said eighth-grader Alex Winter during a recent board meeting where the program was spotlighted. Alex remembers fondly a fellow student who took him under his wing when he landed at Ridge last year after moving here from Montana. That was before the formal program was in place.

The 26 ambassadors are the first to greet a new classmate and take turns leading them on tours around the school. But they do much more than help their new friends open their lockers and find their classes. They 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, just to name a few. 

Most importantly, they become their first friend. 

“A little bit of kindness can impact someone so greatly,” reflected eighth-grader Shaxrizoda Davronova (Shakira), noting that one of the students she helped welcome to Ridge says hello and gives her a hug almost every time they pass in the hallway. 
Another student ambassador, Aubree Hinkle, was encouraged to hear how well one of the students she’d toured was settling in at Ridge. “It made me feel like I can help people and make a difference in their lives,” she said.

Student ambassador Karmelo Jordan added that he gained one of his closest friends through the experience. “We truly care and want to let new students know they are now part of the Ridge family,” Karmelo said.

From matching ambassadors with new students based on shared interests to actually selecting the student ambassadors, it is all very purposeful, shared Ridge counselor and the group’s advisor Kelly Carstens. In fact, Carstens was already scouting potential leaders last school year as she planned the group’s launch for the 2022-2023 school year. The group was intact and training for their new roles over the summer. 

“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, explaining that 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.” 

Likewise, for as many ways as they have helped their new peers, the ambassadors were just as quick to identify things they’ve personally gained through the experience. Eighth-grader Sanaa Stoker said she is learning the power of leading by example and has applied it to other parts of her life like her extracurricular involvement in dance.

“I’ve learned how to open up more and the value of getting to know people’s stories,” Shaxrizoda added. 

“It has helped me be the best version of myself and always make better choices,” said another student ambassador, Lma Abdoh.

Besides building connections with new students, Ridge’s ambassadors also serve as representatives for special visitors, summer tours and tours for incoming sixth-graders. The group is also excited about their next endeavor, a school-wide kindness week they will lead after winter break. As a way of spreading kindness, they will be distributing rubber ducks to students they witness doing an act of kindness and then asking them to pass it forward. 

“I think the skill (from this experience) that will help me the most moving forward is kindness,” said Jordan at the board meeting. “It makes you feel good about being kind to others and want to do it more.”