Some middle and high school students are starting classes early as they train to become mentors to incoming freshman and sixth graders for the new school year.
The new mentoring program, funded by education nonprofit HeadsUp, hopes to help eliminate bullying, improve discipline, increase attendance and promote safety in schools. Seniors and juniors at and eighth graders will become mentors to incoming students and help them learn the ropes as they transition to their new classes.
“It’s meant for the kids to feel like they have a safety net beneath them,” Davidson staff advisor Brent Menke said.
Menke told the San Rafael City School Board at their Aug. 8 meeting that most bullying occurs with misinformation as opposed to physical fighting. The mentors will act as a trusted source of information, who can point new students to the correct bathrooms or tell them how to schedule counseling appointments.
Approximately 75 Davidson students and 61 San Rafael students will act as mentors when the school year begins on Aug. 18. Davidson will have over 300 incoming sixth graders and San Rafael will have over 200 incoming freshman.
“Freshman year is the one of the most important years in high school,” San Rafael High School Principal Kit Pappenheimer said.
A student’s sense of belonging will have an impact on his or her academic performance, attendance and discipline for the next four years, she said.
San Rafael High mentors Allie Hoch and Rebecca Lite haven’t witnessed bullying at their campus, but they feel a sense of community is important for new students. They hope to get their freshman involved with lunchtime activities, tailgating events and more.
“I think it’s important to build relationships with older kids,” Hoch said.
“It also helps you get a feel for the school and feel a part of a community,” Lite added.