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Press 3 for a pep talk from kindergartners. A new hotline gives you options for joy

The kids at West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, Calif., handed out Peptoc hotline cards to the public to help spread the word about the project.
Jessica Martin
The kids at West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, Calif., handed out Peptoc hotline cards to the public to help spread the word about the project.

Updated March 6, 2022 at 5:34 PM ET

Amid a crush 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.

Kids' voices will prompt you with a menu of options:

If you're feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press 3. If you need to hear kids laughing with delight, press 4. For encouragement in Spanish, press 5.

Pressing 3 leads to a chorus of kids sounding off a series of uplifting mantras:

"Be grateful for yourself," offers one student.

"If you're feeling up high and unbalanced, think of groundhogs," another chimes in.

"Bro, you're looking great."

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

It was put together with the help of teachers Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss. Martin, who teaches the arts program at the school, says she was inspired by her students' positive attitudes, despite all they've been through — the pandemic, wildfires in the region and just the everyday challenges of being a kid.

"I thought, you know, with this world being as it is, we all really needed to hear from them — their extraordinary advice and their continual joy," she said.

August Pochan, a West Side Elementary 1st grader, hangs a poster with encouraging words on a phone pole for the Peptoc project.
/ Jessica Martin
/
Jessica Martin
August Pochan, a West Side Elementary 1st grader, hangs a poster with encouraging words on a phone pole for the Peptoc project.

Martin said she spoke 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 resourcefulness is something that we need to emulate, because that level of joy and love and imagination is what's going to save us in the end," she said.

Martin says she hopes the hotline will give callers a little respite from whatever it is they're going through, which — judging from the thousands of calls the hotline gets each day — is quite a lot.

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

"That this went viral is really testament that we all still have a lot of healing to do," she said. "And you know, with the current situation in Ukraine and all of the other terrors and sadness that we all carry, it's really important that we continue to hold this light."

She said it's also a testament to fostering the arts in schools, noting that West Side doesn't have much of an arts program after a massive budget cut this year.

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

To help support the program's hotline fees, you can click here to donate. Martin said that any surplus funds will go toward the school's enrichment programs.

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

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.