Friday, March 22, 2019

High school to middle school mentoring to make transition stress-free

Dakota Emmons and Molly McAllister 
Middle school can be a challenging time for many students, and the transition from middle school into the high school can cause tremendous anxiety. Through a new initiative, however, Windham High School and Windham Middle School are teaming up to make it a little easier.

The new mentoring program asks Windham High School students in good academic standing and with free periods in their day to volunteer to walk over to Windham Middle School. They are partnered with a sixth to eighth grade student, with pairs chosen based primarily on shared interests.
Once a middle school student is paired with their high school mentor, they meet weekly for the rest of the year.

The mentoring program is beneficial both for the mentor and the mentee. The mentor is provided with an opportunity to develop leadership skills, and the mentee has the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with someone they admire. Many of these middle school students will now have at least one connection when they enter high school.“Younger students look up to older students, and this program is an opportunity for middle-schoolers to build relationships at the high school before they even enter the door as 9th graders,” said Kim McBride, Assistant Principal of Windham Middle School, “Middle-school students are at the age where they are trying to figure out who they are going to be, and having a caring older friend who is a strong role-model can be life-changing.”

In this pilot year, the mentoring program is intentionally remaining small with only 10 mentoring pairs. With a small group, the program has been able to remain flexible and provide solid support for all participants.

“As with any new program, there have been challenges to work through,” said Lanet Hane, Director of Community Connections, “Our mentors have been excellent about sharing their thoughts and ideas for improvement that will be implemented next year.”

As program structures develop, additional mentors will be added to meet the growing need. Applications for high school students interested in serving as mentors will open in late-April, with initial orientations occurring before the end of the end of the school year. In the 2019-2020 school year, the district hopes to match 25 mentoring pairs.

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