As she reflected on her first days as a high school student, senior Ally Banks said a group of friends and mentors made her transition to high school a positive experience.
Without them, the Shawnee Mission Northwest (SMNW) student said she thinks her high school experience would have started off on the wrong foot.
That is one reason she was among the more than 400 high school students across the Shawnee Mission School District who are dedicating time this year to serving as mentors to high school freshmen and new students. Each high school provides a mentoring program for freshmen and new students.
“Freshmen need a home,” Banks said. “It’s such a transition and we want to help them. I’m glad we do this for freshmen who might feel alone or really nervous or scared coming into high school.”
Prior to the first days of school, freshmen mentors spent time training and preparing for their leadership roles. Click here to see a video of preparations at SMNW.
Beyond efforts to welcome students on the first day, freshmen mentors also train on ways to engage with younger students throughout the year to help with a successful school transition. Sometimes the leaders visit classes to talk to students about topics like goal setting or peer pressure. Many also work to find ways to check in with the students and interact with them throughout the year.
“A big part of helping freshmen is continuing to encourage them to get out, participate, and find their place in the school,” Adam White, senior, said.
Many schools at the middle and elementary level also provide opportunities for younger students to interact regularly with older students. On the first days of middle school, teams of eight-graders helped seventh-graders and new students with orientation. Many elementary schools also connect older students with younger students throughout the year by partnering classrooms of different age levels or by creating collaborative learning teams with students of different ages.
The older and younger student interactions play an important role in creating a positive school climate, Christin LaMourie, LINK coordinator said.
“You are such an important part of building relationships with freshmen, and helping them get a great start at our school,” LaMourie told student mentors. “It’s also important you continue that throughout the year, showing them what we want our school to be.”