Bordentown Regional Middle School has recently added a new program to their school called the Wingman program, a unique youth leadership program specifically designed for school environments.

The Wingman program stems from Dylan’s Wings of Change, a foundation created by Ian Hockley and dedicated to Dylan Hockley, one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. The Wingman program is ideal for school environments focused on social and emotional learning, leadership, and community building. The overall effect the program strives to leave is inclusion and acceptance among students and peers. Through conversation and experiential learning, the Wingman program provides opportunities for students to give their opinions on topics and talk about the world they want to live in.

The Bordentown Regional School District was looking for a leadership program to help strengthen the learning experience within their schools when Nell Geiger, the district’s Student Assistance Counselor, stumbled upon the Wingman program. The district chose this program because it was run by the kids, and because of the focus of the program. The district decided to allow one school to experience this program and Bordentown Regional Middle School’s Principal, Joseph Sprague, immediately jumped on the opportunity. Bordentown Regional Middle School guidance counselors Dawn Patterson and Michael Mcquarrie helped to incorporate the program into the school.

“The plan was to introduce it as a three year thing,” Mcquarrie said. “So, each year, sixth grade would have Wingmen come in and teach lessons, that kind of thing, and in three years, it would be ingrained in the middle school. As those kids graduate, they can go to the high school, and as the middle school becomes more involved, there would be more kids to go down to the elementary school.”

The reason Bordentown Regional Middle School chose this program because of the independence offered to students within the program. The activities are run by the Wingman students, though each activity is supervised by teachers. After each activity, the students hold a discussion with the Wingman program, as a way to strengthen the learning environment and create empathy and acceptance among students.

Bordentown Regional Middle School selected 32 seventh and eighth graders over the summer to participate in the Wingman program. These seventh and eighth graders will go into the classrooms of the sixth graders and complete activities with them that are experiential-based, or hands-on activities. The school is merging these activities into the sixth grade health classes.

COVID-19 has made it difficult for the school to incorporate the program. Though the school has completed training for the students, their training was conducted virtually. Overall, remote learning has caused many learning curves among students around the country, and BRMS is cautious about taking more learning time away from students by adding the Wingman program.

Bordentown Regional Middle School plans to incorporate the activities of the Wingman program into the sixth grade health classes. This decision was made in an effort to prevent taking more time away from the main core classes. This was also a way for every child to be involved in the program, regardless of schedule or the courses a child is taking.

The students participate in hands-on activities and games, which are meant to teach and strengthen empathy and inclusion. The exercises are team-building, in the hopes of creating a stronger learning community.

The Wingman program has helped the school promote the anti-bullying program #hatnothate, where the students and staff wore blue hats to show their fight against bullying.

“The student leaders also help us promote other programs that we might want to run in school,” Patterson said. “For instance, we had this program earlier in the year called Hat Not Hate, that was anti-bullying. We had an assembly, and we had breakout sessions, but every student got one of these blue hats, and the blue hat was supposed to be symbolic of remembering not to bully and to stand up to bullies.”