Wayzata West Middle School Summons the Help of ‘SHERPA’
Every day, about 775 students in grades 6 through 8 make their way to Wayzata’s West Middle School. “We are the only school that’s located in the city of Wayzata,” said Dave Lutz, West Middle School’s principal.
The building brings character and charm to the school. It once housed Wayzata High School. “As you walk around the building, you have some unique 1950-feel type things,” Lutz said. “It’s a 1950s building, but I really like the character that that provides our school.” The hallways, the trash receptacles built into the walls, and old ticket booths near the gymnasium serve as reminders of the school’s rich history.
Wayzata West Middle School’s ‘Sherpa’ program
Passionate teachers and unique students fill the school. “These students that are coming out of Wayzata West, there’s something different about those students, and that’s one of the things that I want our teachers to really embrace,” Lutz added.
Many students achieve at high levels. Students also learn about the importance of volunteering and community service. “They are driven and really excited to help others at this young an age. That really amazes and excites me,” said Peter Binnie, a school social worker. He also advises a student group at school called SHERPA, or Student Helpers Engaging and Encouraging Relationships with Peers At School.
SHERPA involves about 80 students at West. They take part in activities that include food drives for Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, meal-packing events with Second Harvest Heartland, and new student orientation, where students serve as tour guides and panelists for incoming 6th graders. “It’s a group of, like, potential leaders,” said Kompal Kumar, an 8th grader. “And we work all together and plan activities and things at our school.”
The activities help teach the kids valuable life lessons like leadership. “It kind of sets the climate,” said Aleeza Amin, an 8th grader. “I think that in our world and our society, we need more positive leaders.” The program also encourages students to include others. “You could just find maybe find someone who’s left out in your community and just talk to them and make a new friend, and it really makes a difference,” said Dena Shink, an 8th grader. “That’s like a valuable skill to have in life.”
Navigating middle school at Wayzata West Middle School
Middle-school is a transitional time. Students are still trying to figure out who they are. “By nature, I think a lot of us are more self-focused when we’re younger,” Binnie said. “To see these kids looking beyond themselves and wanting to help others and be so enthused to do that, is really exciting and humbling to see.”
Teachers hope instilling the value of service and leadership will transfer to high school and beyond. “I’m super excited for the future here at Wayzata West,” Lutz said. “I think we have a lot of great things in place, and we’re trying to get better every day.”