New hotline offers kindergarten pep talks : NPR


Children at West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, Calif., handed out Peptoc hotline cards to the public to help raise awareness of the project.

Jessica Martin


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Jessica Martin

New hotline offers kindergarten pep talks : NPR

Children at West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, Calif., handed out Peptoc hotline cards to the public to help raise awareness of the project.

Jessica Martin

Amidst a hubbub of heavy news from around the world, who couldn’t use some sage advice right now?

Call a new hotline, and you’ll get just that — encouraging words from a resilient group of kindergartners.

The children’s voices will prompt you with a menu of options:

If you feel angry, frustrated or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from the kids kindergarten, press 3. If you need to hear children laugh with delight, press 4. For Spanish cheering, press 5.

By pressing 3, a choir of children performs a series of uplifting mantras:

“Be thankful to yourself,” one student suggests.

“If you’re feeling high and off balance, think groundhogs,” adds another.

“Brother, you look great.”

Peptoc, as the free hotline is called, is a project of the students of West Side Elementary, a small school in the town of Healdsburg, California.

It was put together with the help of Professors Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss. Martin, who teaches the arts program at the school, says she was inspired by the positive attitudes of her students, despite everything they’ve been through – the pandemic, the wildfires in the area and the everyday challenges of childhood.

“I thought, you know, with this world the way it is, we all really needed to hear from them — their amazing advice and continued joy,” she said.

New hotline offers kindergarten pep talks : NPR

August Pochan, a first-grader from West Side Elementary, hangs a poster with encouraging words on a telephone pole for the Peptoc project.

Jessica Martin


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Jessica Martin

New hotline offers kindergarten pep talks : NPR

August Pochan, a first-grader from West Side Elementary, hangs a poster with encouraging words on a telephone pole for the Peptoc project.

Jessica Martin

Martin said she talked with her class about the idea of ​​art as a kind of social practice, a conversation to contribute to the world — and something we can all learn from.

“Their creativity and ingenuity is something we need to emulate, because that level of joy, love and imagination is what will save us in the end,” she said.

Martin says she hopes the hotline gives callers a bit of a break from whatever they’re going through, which, judging by the thousands of calls the hotline receives each day, is plenty.

Two days after the hotline launched on February 26, she said they were up to 700 callers per hour.

New hotline offers kindergarten pep talks : NPR

An installation of inspirational posters at a youth art exhibit at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts in California.

Jessica Martin


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Jessica Martin

New hotline offers kindergarten pep talks : NPR

An installation of inspirational posters at a youth art exhibit at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts in California.

Jessica Martin

“The fact that this has gone viral is really proof that we all still have a lot of healing to do,” she said. “And you know, with the current situation in Ukraine and all the other terrors and sadnesses that we all carry, it’s really important that we continue to hold that light.”

She said it was also a testament to the promotion of the arts in schools, noting that West Side didn’t have much of an arts program after a massive budget cut this year.

So the next time you need a little help, call Peptoc at 707-998-8410.

To help defray the cost of the program’s hotline, you can click here to donate. Martin said any excess funds will go to school enrichment programs.

Hiba Ahmad and Hadeel Al-Shalchi produced and edited this story for broadcast. Emma Bowman produced the story for the web.


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