PTO, WPS Dean of Students Revive Thurston Middle School's Friday Night Fun Tradition


Photo by Tara Dufour. Dean of Students Edward Walker leads eighth graders in "Walker Says," a take on the game of "Simon Says" at Thurston Middle School's Friday Night Fun event.

Thanks to the Thurston Middle School PTO for contributing this article to Westwood Minute.

When Thurston Middle School’s (TMS's) Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) leadership team met with Edward Walker, Westwood Public Schools District's newly-appointed Dean of Students, on his third day on the job in September 2022, no one imagined the success that would come from their meeting. Last month, the PTO, along with an army of parent volunteers, with tremendous support from Walker, brought back a TMS tradition and hosted their final aptly-named Friday Night Fun event - a series of grade-specific social events that aimed to build community and foster social skills.

"Friday Fun Nights have been essential in re-establishing a sense of community and a culture of celebration at TMS. Although each grade had its own night, the overwhelming number of students that participated is a clear indication that these engagements are equally important for all students,” said Walker. “Initially, as a Dean, I quiver at the idea of inviting 150+ kids into one space and giving them the green light to ‘cut-loose’ but I marvel at the joy that I see on their faces when it is all said and done - and that is most important to me."

Students shed their too-cool-for-school personas and raced through giant inflatable obstacle courses, competed in basketball shoot-outs, danced and played games led by a DJ, and, when they needed a break from those activities, played table games in the cafeteria.

Photo by Tara Dufour. Seventh graders march together in a line at Friday Fun Night.

Careful thought went into the planning so that there would be something for everyone and accommodate all students. The highlight of the night was a fiercely competitive game of Walker Says - a twist on Simon Says led by Mr. Walker! The winner of each grade walked away with a plague and bragging rights.

These events were held at TMS on December 2 (7th grade), January 20 (6th grade), and on February 10 for the 8th grade. More than 70% of each grade attended these events, and each had 25+ parent volunteers.

“Friday Night Fun was about so much more than just throwing a party for our students,” said JoAnna French, TMS PTO Co-chair and Friday Night Fun Committee Lead, “After three years of nearly zero organized social events for our kids, these were an important opportunity to have fun together in a safe, positive environment that was accessible for all.”

Photo courtesy of JoAnna French. The Thurston Middle School PTO Executive Board (L to R): Mariam Nasr, Amanda Drainville, Pam Schnatterly, and JoAnna French.

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