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Need a pep talk? Call this number and you’ll get one for free from some very cute kids

The hotline run gives wisdom ranging from encouraging frustrated people to punch pillows to telling listeners that "rainbows are jealous of them."

Feeling overwhelmed and stressed and looking for some words of encouragement? Help is just a phone call away.

Dial 707-8PEPTOC (707-873-7862) to hear the kindergarten through 6th grade students from West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, California, share advice on how to grapple with anger, frustration, anxiety or simply for a mood boost. Here’s a few options callers might consider:

If you’re feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press one.

If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press two.

Feeling down? Call this number to hear pep talks from kindergartners
The K-6th grade students knew exactly what to say and write when it came to creating motivational and supportive posters as part of Peptoc. Courtesy Jessica Martin

To hear how awesome you look, press six. The students’ suggestions could warm even the coldest heart. 

Rainbows are jealous of you.

You look better than a star in the sky.

If you feel mad, go get your wallet and spend it on ice cream and juice.

If you’re sad or angry, go get a cookie or a smoothie or ice cream!

Lady, you’re doing great!

As art teacher Jessica Martin was thinking about how to foster empathy and compassion in students, she wondered if asking them to create encouraging messages for a hotline could help. That sparked the idea for Peptoc.

“We said, ‘This is what’s on everyone’s minds. It’s what social emotional learning is front and center as kids are coming back to school and finding some new form of normalcy,” she told TODAY Parent. “Working with kids, I’ve been continually amazed at their wisdom and their coping strategies and how they support one another, how they support their parents. They’re incredibly powerful. We wanted to make a project that celebrated that.” 

Feeling down? Call this number to hear pep talks from kindergartners
Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss hung encouraging posters all over town as part of Peptoc.Courtesy Jessica Martin

Martin and her coworker Asherah Weiss offered the students a prompt to help them think of nice things to say to bolster someone’s mood.

“We said, ‘Imagine someone is having a hard time and what’s something you could do or say to them that could help lift them up and make them feel better,’” Martin recalled. “Most of them, their hands shot up instantly because this is just something that’s already on their minds.”

Weiss helped the children create motivation posters to hang around town while Martin worked with them to record their messages. While Martin put certain messages in the different categories on the hotline, she didn’t edit any of the children’s messages.

“There was no prompting, no script, nothing,” Martin said. “It all just came from them in their personal experience.” 

Feeling down? Call this number to hear pep talks from kindergartners
It's hard to feel down when a child tells you that you're doing great.Courtesy Jessica Martin

While Martin thought Peptoc would be well received in the community, she had no idea how popular it would be worldwide. After it launched in the spring of 2022, it went viral. In November, the week before the 2022 midterm elections, someone tweeted the number and within 12 hours, the hotline received 1,623,000 calls. The students have taken their viral fame in stride.

“I can’t even get my mind around that. But I think the kids were thrilled with all of the camera crews coming in and getting interviewed,” Martin said. “I also think that a part of them were like, ‘Yeah it’s about time you listened to (children).’”  

While Martin hoped to nurture her students’ emotional learning, she also hopes this experience will show them that even miniscule gestures can inspire change.

“I really think that these kids are going to remember this for their life into adulthood and carry this with them that making change is easy and it’s possible,” she said. “The idea is to start small and identify a community that you’re a part of and contribute to that community and then kindness continues out and multiples exponentially.” 

Feeling down? Call this number to hear pep talks from kindergartners
Schools around the world who heard about Peptoc Courtesy Jessica Martin

As the hotline gained popularity, Martin has considered why pep talks from children seem to be so powerful for adults.

“It’s a wonderful and powerful experience to hear kids that give you advice and encouragement and remember that you were also a kid and that encouragement is still within us,” she said.  

Martin has been contacted by schools worldwide hoping to replicate the motivational posters.

“They’re putting up posters in their own language and hanging them throughout their community,” Martin said. “They’re sending us images of these posters and we’re working with a book agent to publish a book based on this project.”

The experience has transformed many of the students who participated in Peptoc.

“I’ve noticed a really huge spike in self-confidence, and they understand that their words are powerful — and what a gift for a young child to understand that,” Martin said. “I see them helping each other.”