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US kids offer free pep talks on hotline

Words by Smiley Team

The world, and everything happening in it, can be overwhelming and disheartening – but sometimes all it takes to get you out of it is a little encouragement from an eight-year-old. 

“If you’re nervous go get your wallet and spend it on ice cream and shoes,” says a recording of a young voice. 

A group of California primary school students have started a free phone hotline called the Peptoc Hotline with the intent of spreading some joy out into the world. The school is named Westside School and has a small enrollment of only about 147 students. When the hotline started they only expected a few hundred calls, maybe a thousand in a month.

Instead, as it gained traction, they reached nearly 9,000 phone calls an hour. 

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“I think we’re a grieving world right now,” said Jessica Martin, a West Side art teacher, to the New York Times.

Ms. Martin created the hotline alongside fellow artist and educator Asherah Weiss, which started as a project to help teach students about empathy. The project, which also featured a poster element, began when Ms. martin and Ms. Weiss asked their classes, from kindergarten to sixth grade, how they stayed positive. 

As it progressed some students began work on posters that would be placed around the town while others volunteered to be recorded for the hotline. One by one Ms. Martin recorded the lines from different students with her iPhone and began categorizing them. 

After she had the categories and the recordings it was placed on a cheap hotline and the children’s advice was just a call away. 

Dial 707-998-8410 and the first thing you’ll hear is, “If you’re feeling mad, frustrated, or nervous, press one. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press two. If you need a pep talk from kindergarteners, press three. If you need to hear kids laughing with delight, press four. If you want encouragement in Spanish press five.”

Once you select your category you’ll hear gems like, “If you’re frustrated, you can always go to your bedroom, punch a pillow or cry on it and just go scream outside,” or “If you’re mad or frustrated, you can do what you want to do best or you can do flips on the trampoline.”

The hotline, which will be updated in the coming months, is funded by donations.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: You can donate to the crowdfunding initiative to help the hotline reach its goal of $40,000. 

SUPPORT: The Felta Education Foundation is helping to run the hotline. Find out more



This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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