Advice hotline created by California kids goes viral

Banfield

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (NewsNation) — An automated hotline called “Peptoc,” which started out as a school project, is now receiving 9,000 calls an hour.

Students at West Side Union Elementary School in Healdsburg, Calif., launched the advice hotline with hopes of spreading a little bit of joy amid all the chaos happening in the world.

Art teacher Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss spent years planning the project, taking the time to really listen to their students.

“Over the pandemic we’ve really been talking about empathy, and how can we bring art into schools in really positive ways to help our kids really find their power and their voice in the world,” Martin said in a Tuesday interview on “Banfield.”

The little experts are certainly onto something because so many adults looking for a motivational message heard a busy signal when they tried to call in.

“Initially, this was just meant to be a community public art project. It quickly after two days was getting 500 calls an hour. I was astonished at that.”

The students also made fliers with encouraging tear-off messages like “It is OK to feel sad.”

To experience “Peptoc,” dial 707-998-8410 to be greeted by the following 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 kindergarteners, press 3.”
  • “If you need to hear kids laughing with delight, press 4.”
  • “If you would like to make a donation to support this project, please press 6.”
  • “For encouragement in Spanish, press 5.”

The messages come entirely from the kids and their life experiences.

“These kids are incredibly resilient. They’ve had to endure annual evacuations from wildfire, not to mention the pandemic, remote schooling and the difficulties of just growing up,” Martin said.

Elementary school creates advice hotline | Credit: Jessica Martin

Martin says she hopes to keep this going as long as possible, adding in more options to give all the kids opportunities to participate in rotating surprise pep talks every week.

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