By Alexis Burns ‘19
Elementary school teachers have a lot on their plates with some kids misbehaving, others waiting patiently for help, a few running around with way too much energy, it is just chaos; that is where the peer mentors come in to lend a helping hand. The Peer Mentoring Program takes select high school students and sends them to elementary schools to help educate and mentor younger students and along the way they form bonds.
The Peer Mentoring Program has been around for six years and it is the largest it has ever been this year with seventy five students involved in the program. Almost every elementary school in the district is involved, except for Lakeview, which is a work in progress. The program has never thrived more. “Peer mentoring is really going well this year,” stated Mrs. String, one of the guidance counselors that runs the program.
Back in 2011, the program took off, with Mrs. String, Mrs. Wagner, and Mrs. Rigby heading it. According to Mrs.Wagner, the idea came to fruition when Mrs.Rigby, who also runs the Student Assistance Program, decided that she liked the idea of “Kids helping kids”. The project started with only twelve seniors and two schools, Woodlyn and Eddystone. Mrs.Wagner recalls, “We would train the students during the school day and then we would put them in our cars and drive them to the elementary schools.”
During the second year, Peer Mentoring had to adapt to its growth. It became really popular, many wanted to be involved. The counselors decided to require that students have recommendations to be considered for the program.
Mrs.String explained, “they have to have either a teacher or guidance recommendation.” After a student is recommended they go through a series of interviews conducted by the counselors. The counselors look for people who can meet the needs of younger students and certain personality types.
“I got a letter saying that I was recommended and then I had interviews with three different teachers and I got another letter saying I’ve been accepted,” described Connor Warwick.
Once inducted into the program, mentors are trained in behavioral support, academic instruction, giving assessments, and handling the children.
Four days a week and every other week, the high schoolers go to their elementary schools to help their children. The position they work in depends mostly on them. Many help with EDK or Extended Day Kindergarten, which is when kindergarten students have a whole day of school and sometimes get on a bus to go somewhere else. The mentors help them get situated. They help the kids get their stuff together, get on the bus, and transition to the other schools. Some work with Behavioral and Emotional Support kids and help them get through their days. Whether that be by taking them away when they get worked up or just talking to them. Others help with just academics such as reading, writing, or math.
Julia Meeley, who peer mentors at Eddystone, works with kindergarteners at recess and lunch. She helps them with reading during these times if they need it. “It’s a fun thing to do and a nice break. My favorite part is I get to cheer the kids up and they cheer me up too.”
The great part about being involved is the impact that it makes on the children. Carolina Jimenez says that her favorite part about being involved is, “getting close to the kids.”
The peer mentors do great things for elementary school children. They all agree that helping the kids is the best part and that the feeling of love between them and the children is mutual. They are changing and molding these children for the future and helping them get extra support in their lives and educations.