Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New program pairs freshmen with senior mentors at THS

October 24, 2007

The transition from becoming the big dogs at the middle school to the low man on the totem pole at the high school is becoming a little easier for Tonganoxie freshmen.

It's all thanks to a new mentoring programs that pairs senior class members helping their incoming schoolmates.

At the beginning of the school year, Tonganoxie High School principal Jamie Carlisle brought in a program from Baxter Springs High School that helped bridge the gap for the new freshmen.

"We developed this program at my former school, but when I came here we took the program to the next level," Carlisle said. "We are trying to make all of the students feel like they are an integral part of the high school."

For a half-hour session every Wednesday, volunteering seniors connect with freshmen. It differs from Carlisle's previous school in that the mentoring sessions are divided into different clubs. He believes seniors and freshmen connect better when they are involved in activities they both enjoy.

Some of the clubs available for the mentoring session are Science Club, Leadership Club, Sports Therapy Club and Guitar Club.

THS senior Jake Bontrager likes the opportunity to help his underclassmen become full-fledged Chieftains.

"The whole point is that we can help integrate them into the high school," he said. "We've always been in school with the sophomores. This is the first time we've been in school with the freshmen. I think it's really helpful that we get to make friends that are younger, but also help them get used to the kids that are older."

Algebra and geometry teacher Keith Gilliland has a mentoring session in his classroom with seniors and with eight-grade students from Tonganoxie Middle School. He believes seniors will be able to connect with the younger students much better than a teacher can.

"They will give advice to these younger kids that they will actually listen, too," Gilliland said. At the same time it gives the seniors the opportunity to feel like they are really contributing to the school, that they are a part and have a responsibility for what the school is and it has a definite influence. They are feeling like their opinion counts."

The rest of the seniors are involved with a mentorship program with staff that is serving as a personal adult advocate, helping the students find out what they want to do with their life.

Seniors who wanted to volunteer to be mentors had to meet requirements: They had to receive grades above C's as juniors and passed the state assessment test. Carlisle also checked the student's attendance record and checked for any disciplinary problems.

"I explained to them that it would cost them 30 minutes of their school day, 30 minutes of potential homework time to give back to other students," Carlisle said.

Eighty-five seniors asked to be volunteers. Of those volunteers, Carlisle was happy that each of the students was able to participate in the program.

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