The Peer Mentoring program at Connect Charter School began in 2014 when a grade 8 teacher saw a need to create a leadership opportunity for older students within the school, that would also contribute to internal community building. The initial program ran with 20 student pairings and has now expanded to 222 pairings this year. The program offers an opportunity for grade 7 to 9 students to mentor and support students in grades 4 to 6 in their academic studies as well as provide friendship. Potential peer mentors must complete an application form, attend training, and mentee students are referred by their teachers and parents, or can refer themselves.
The student pairings have always been deliberate and purposeful in order to provide both the mentor and the mentee with the most beneficial relationship-building experience. It’s important for the program’s success to ensure that not only is the mentee receiving the support they want, but that the mentor is also experiencing personal growth. “My leadership skills have definitely improved through the peer mentoring program,” explains a grade 8 mentor. Other mentors have used this opportunity to get a head start on their future career interests. “I joined this program because I want to be a teacher one day and I like figuring out how [my mentee] learns best,” expresses a grade 9 mentor.
When a peer mentoring pair was asked about their experience together, they were quick to rave about the program. “I think the peer mentoring program here at Connect helps fill the gap between the younger and older grades to help build a relationship,” shares a grade 7 student. His mentee in grade 5 was quick to agree and added his own opinion that “I like having a friend in an older grade because whenever I see him in the hallway we always high five.”
A parent at Connect Charter School, whose son is a mentee in the program, explains how his son enjoys working on special projects with his peer mentor that are outside of his normal school work. “They have a lot in common, so it provides him with someone to chat with about the things he is interested in and have a full, well rounded conversation about it. He looks forward to meeting up with his peer mentor each day “f”; it’s a highlight in his week,” reveals the parent.
“What’s wonderful about peer mentoring is that each relationship is unique and it will go exactly where it needs to. Just having a friend in an older student is sometimes all they need to feel safe and that they belong. It is a beautiful thing to witness,” states Leane Riley, Connect Charter Educational Assistant.
Although it was not Riley who first initiated the peer mentoring program, she keeps the wheels turning with a weekly Peer Mentoring blog. Riley, in collaboration with Student Services, sets up the student pairs, and she and grade 9 teacher Jaime Groeller provide materials and resources for students to use during peer mentoring, and monitor the peer mentoring groups to provide advice and help keep them on task.
Please see the following highlights from Ms. Riley’s November 27 installment of the Peer Mentoring blog:
Hello Peer Mentors,
I wish you all could see what we see when we are walking around the school during peer mentoring, but how could you when you are so thoughtfully engaged with your mentee.
So, I wondered if providing a small sampling of your highlights (taken from your log forms) would paint a picture of how important and meaningful your work is.
- When she said ” I know this is the first time we met, but do you think I am smart?” And this hit me hard, because everyone should think they are smart. So I told her that she is smart, and very capable of doing good things.
- One highlight about today was asking each other questions and getting to know each other more.
- She told me that she liked peer mentoring.
- We played basketball in the gym together. We had a lot of fun and helped expand our friendship.
- She really let out her fun side and we got to laugh a lot.
- When I was showing him some strategies to win our game.
- At the end of the period, we were saying goodbye to each other, and when she was leaving she gave me a hug and it felt like a huge relief. I didn’t know if she liked me or not, or if she was bored, this was completely new to me because I never had a peer mentee that had given me a hug before or memorized my name. This felt like the best feeling in the world at the time and I was smiling for the rest of the day.
- It was fun playing the place value game because she taught me. So I was learning from her instead of me teaching her, so it was fun and unique.
- Just being with my peer mentee, upon asking him,”What was one highlight of our time today,” and he replied, ”Being with my you,” that may have been my highlight.
- When I learned we both love art and drawing, our conversation became really enjoyable, and it was fun to learn about the art that she likes to do.
- Seeing each other again after a while.
- We had a good time getting to know each other.
Do you know what all these means? Do you see what’s happening here?
Your time and friendship are making a meaningful difference for your mentee. On behalf of your mentees, our teachers, our families, our school communities…
Thank you – Thank you -Thank you!
The Peer Mentoring program at Connect is a unique and valued program that showcases the value that Connect Charter School places on building a sense of community, leadership, and learning enrichment for students.