By Beniamino Nardin, Harwood correspondent
Being a middle schooler on the cusp of secondary school can be daunting, but a new program at Harwood Union High School is looking to make that transition as easy as possible. An 11th or 12th grader who is a member of the National Honor Society can volunteer as a mentor to a middle school student.
“They meet with the mentor either weekly or biweekly one-on-one for 30 minutes doing things they’re interested in,” said Skylar Bradley, a Harwood middle school teacher who spearheaded the program. “Throwing a football, shooting hoops, coloring, baking, making friendship bracelets, going for a walk – it’s just a little time for them to have a positive role model in their life.”
The mentoring program is a way to bridge the gap between middle and high school, a way for middle schoolers to be exposed to what high school is and to ease any anxieties they might have about it. “Having that role model is always super important for all ages,” said Bradley. “Just having that additional person at school you can connect to.”
Bradley approached the Harwood principals, Megan McDonough and Laurie Greenberg, with the idea of the mentoring program. “It was something I did when I was in high school. I was a mentee and then I became a mentor, and I was really passionate about it. I thought it would be something really beneficial for middle schoolers.”
Before the mentors could meet their mentees, Bradley led a two-day training, teaching them things like confidentiality and the email process, in which the mentor CCs all correspondence with their mentee to Bradley and the mentee’s TA teacher so they’re in the loop.
The mentors and mentees work with the seventh- and eighth-grade teams to work out a schedule. That way, middle schoolers won’t miss classes – instead, they meet with their mentors during TA or a study hall.
Currently, the mentoring program is selection-based since there are only so many National Honor Society members, but Bradley is looking to expand the program already. “We had the second meeting of mentors last week, and five mentors applied to be co-presidents, which would make this a bigger program.”
In the future, Bradley hopes to open the program to 11th and 12th graders who aren’t NHS members, creating an application process with certain criteria, like GPA, they have to follow to be a mentor. “My goal is someone [middle schoolers] can look up to and who’s a good person and voice at our school,” said Bradley. “Right now, we have 12 mentors. I’d love to double it or even more by next year.”
“All the feedback that I’ve heard from eighth graders has been incredibly positive,” said Sarah Ibson, a teacher at the Harwood Union Middle School. “One student said, ‘That was so much fun!’ I think they see, right away, the benefit of having upperclassmen paying attention to them and making a connection with common interests. I think it’ll make the transition to high school easier for students.”
“One day I was in the hallway with one of the middle schoolers and their mentor was 2 feet ahead of us,” said Bradley, “And he goes, ‘That’s my mentor!’ And when he said hi, it was so sweet to see them already have a handshake going on and have a connection even though it’d been one day since their meeting.”
After the mentoring co-president is selected, Bradley plans on sitting down with the current mentors to plan for the rest of the school year, so that students can begin applying for the mentorship and be prepared for the new school year.