Kids at West Side School in the Bay Area have created a feel-good project, a free hotline, people ca...
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Kids Dish Out Adorable Advice & Motivational Pep Talks When You Call This Free Hotline

Meet your new life coaches...

Are you unsure of yourself? Feeling hopeless? Sad? Has *gestures emphatically at the state of the world* all this begun to get you down? Do you ever think, “I could really use a pep talk right now, but I’d feel silly asking for one.” Good news! Students at West Side School in Healdsburg, California have created a public art project called “Peptoc Hotline,” a number you can call to receive one of five messages — including one in Spanish — to brighten your day. The project launched Feb. 26, and is a collaboration between local artist and art teacher Jessica Martin and artist Asherah Weiss (and, of course, Martin’s wonderful students).

When you dial (707) 8PEPTOC – that’s (707) 873-7862 for those of you who don’t like translating touchtone phones– the voice of a young but articulate girl (who sounds a bit like Lucy in It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown) greets you.

“Hi! Welcome to Peptoc, a public art project by West Side School.” (The message is repeated, with equal poise and charm, by another girl in Spanish.) With the press of a button, you can get words of wisdom, kindness, and encouragement individually tailored to your emotional state and needs. If you’re feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press one. Or perhaps you need to hear some words of encouragement and life advice or a kindergarten pep talk. Maybe you just need to hear a classroom full of children kids laughing with delight (it’s so, so good). There’s also a feel-good message in Spanish. They’re all available to you.

Here’s the kind of brilliance you can expect to hear:

“Be grateful for yourself.”
“I trust that you can make things right!”
“We already like you!”
“Bro! You look great!”
“If you’re nervous, go get your wallet and spend it on ice cream and shoes!”
“You can do it! Keep trying! Don’t give up!”
“If you’re frustrated you can always go to your bedroom, punch a pillow, cry on it, or just go scream outside.”

It is truly the emotional equivalent of putting on your favorite sweatshirt fresh out of the dryer on a cold day, and we’re not alone in that opinion. “Within the first few days, we were getting 500 calls an hour,” Martin told Good Morning America, “and we had to find $800 a day with that volume.”

It was a problem made more challenging due to massive budget cuts to the arts at West Side last year, as reported by NPR. Fortunately, she was able to speak to the president of the hotline service, Telzio, which donated a million minutes to the project, which has also included a local poster campaign featuring words of advice and kindness (as well as illustrations) from West Side students.

Overwhelmed by the response to the project, kids added more messages to the hotline in May, less than three months after launching.

“That this went viral is really testament that we all still have a lot of healing to do,” she told NPR. “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.”

Despite the million minutes donated by Telzio, Peptoc could use a boost... but not the kind of boost it gives to callers: a financial one. The hotline is receiving 5,000 calls an hour, and those minutes are running out fast. To help support the program's hotline fees, you can donate to West Side School here (Martin tells NPR that any surplus funds will go toward the school's enrichment programs) or press 6 when you call the line... and, come on, you know you’re going to call after this!

“With this world being as it is, we all really needed to hear from them,” Martin told NPR. “Their extraordinary advice and their continual joy. 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.”

As a wise woman once said (on Peptoc option 5): “Estás triste, va compra donas!” (English translation: If you’re sad, go buy doughnuts!”) But no matter what you’re feeling, go ahead and called Peptoc at (707) 998-8410. You’ll be glad you did.