The Eighth Grade Year: School Families

At Mayfield Junior School, the eighth grade is a year of opportunity, responsibility and growth. As the final year in their Mayfield journey and perhaps the most anticipated, students share big expectations with a little apprehension and enthusiasm to make the most of every moment. From organizing major school events such as the Harvest Festival to becoming role models as Student Council officers and heads of School Families and navigating the secondary school application process, there is much to accomplish. Given the opportunity to meet the challenges of the year as individuals and as a group, the class develops strong bonds, and each member grows in confidence.

This series of posts will focus on elements within this important year of the Mayfield experience.

Community: School Families

It’s a Tuesday and the second grade at Mayfield Junior School is having a spelling test. One second grader, while slightly nervous, feels confident he will do well. He had help. This time the help didn’t come from a classmate, the teacher or even Mom. It came from an eighth grader.

As a Holy Child School, one of Mayfield’s goals is “To deepen an understanding of Christian community.” Through a Student Activities Program called School Families, the students at Mayfield Junior School live this goal.

School Families is perhaps the most anticipated leadership opportunity during the eighth grade year. Since its inception, it has become a beloved tradition. Each School Family is comprised of one student from each grade level, beginning in first grade, with an eighth grade student as the head of the Family. The Families gather on Friday mornings for an organized meeting and remain a family unit throughout the school year, participating in special projects and often sitting together during a mass or special assembly or competing on the same team for Blue & White Day.

For the eighth graders, many of whom have been a part of the program since first grade, the prospect of finally being in charge and guiding their own Family is exciting for some and a bit intimidating for others. Happily, they are not alone in preparing for this role. Under the guidance of long-time eighth grade advisor and Student Activities Director, Pam Danni, the eighth graders begin training right away. Each student learns through a personality assessment how to recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses, and develop their personal leadership style.

Before the first meeting, the eighth graders make phone calls to the parents of their family members to formally introduce themselves and explain the program to any new families. They also take a few moments to personally meet the first and second graders to help them feel more comfortable. Although there is often a bit of hesitation and apprehension at the first meeting, it is short lived and by the middle of October each family has already established its unique dynamic.

As the head of his or her family, each eighth grader is responsible for gathering everyone together, including each member in any discussion, project or prayer and often keeping the peace. What is remarkable are the connections and relationships that result from this weekly activity. While the challenge of keeping seven young people happy and responsive while under one’s care and guidance can be daunting, the eighth graders take their jobs seriously. Some may help a shy student feel more self-confident or an outspoken child realize the power of kind words and friendship.

With the goals of working together to help others, listening to each other and sharing good times, the school families thrive; building friendships across age groups and developing the idea of community in even the youngest students.

For the second grader who did so well on his spelling test because of the time his eighth grader spent quizzing him, it made all the difference in the world.

Mayfield Junior School, 405 South Euclid Avenue, Pasadena, (626) 796-2774 or visit







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