Students Launch ‘Peptoc Hotline’ to Spread Cheer and Encouragement

The viral project offers tips, advice and inspiring messages from joyful elementary school students.

Posted in , Mar 28, 2022

A group of diverse kids smiling

In need of some encouragement? Kind words? A smile? Try giving this number a call: 707-998-8410. It’s the phone number to “Peptoc,” a free hotline created by students at West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, California, offering advice and uplifting mantras. Teachers Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss are behind the program, which was designed to offer positive and encouraging messages to those going through a difficult time

"I thought, you know, with this world being as it is, we all really needed to hear from [the children]—their extraordinary advice and their continual joy," Martin told NPR

Martin and Weiss, both art teachers at West Side, spoke to their students, ages 6 to 11, about the idea and asked them to think of how they’ve stayed positive throughout the pandemic and during the spread of local wildfires in the area. They also asked them to recall moments when they received helpful advice. “So all of the responses are really coming from the kids and their own life experience, and the advice they’ve gleaned over their short years on this planet,” Martin told The Guardian. The teachers and their students also hung posters and fliers throughout town promoting positive messages. Martin’s 6-year-old son came up with the name after she had asked him to use special blocks to create the word “Peptalk” and mistakenly spelled it as “Peptoc.”

The hotline launched on February 26 and, in less than a week, went viral, receiving 500 calls per hour in just two days. It currently receives up to 9,000 calls per hour. After dialing, you’ll be prompted with a menu of options such as words for when you’re feeling mad, frustrated, or nervous, words of encouragement and life advice, a pep talk from kindergarteners, kids laughing with delight and encouragement in Spanish. Here are some of the uplifting tips, voiced by excited, optimistic children you can expect to be greeted with:

“The world is a better place with you in it.”

“Don’t give up – power through.”

“If you’re frustrated, you can always go to your bedroom, punch a pillow or cry on it and just go scream outside.”

“If you’re feeling up high and unbalanced, think of groundhogs.”

According to Martin, the children’s "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.”

Amy McWilliams, who has stage 4 malignant melanoma, says she’s called the hotline several times for encouragement and has even shared it with fellow cancer patients. "It's joy, straight from the literal mouths of babes," she told CNN. "We adults forget that spreading kindness and positive thinking can really be that simple."

The hotline, which is funded by donations, will be updated with more messages in the coming months. Martin hopes to secure funding to keep the hotline operating indefinitely.

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