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Linda Mah
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Linden Mentors Help 6th Graders

Eighth Graders Benefit from Mentoring Younger Students

When Linden Grove Middle School launched its student-to-student mentoring program, Where Everyone Belongs (WEB), the goal was to help ease the transition into middle school for sixth graders.
The program has indeed accomplished that. When sixth graders come into Linden Grove they are matched with eighth-grade students who can help them with everything from making friends to organizing their binders.
The school has seen decreases in the number of referrals and improved academic achievement -- not just among the sixth graders, but more significantly, among the eighth graders as well, said Courtney Eiseler-Ward, a Spanish teacher who coordinates the WEB program at Linden Grove.
“The year we launched the program we expected to see significant changes, not just in academics but in office discipline referrals for sixth graders. We saw that, but what surprised us is that the program had more of an impact on eighth graders than sixth graders,” she said. “No other program gives you this bang for your buck in terms of keeping eighth graders in class, having kids be connected to school and making sure their grades are where they need to be as they move on to high school.”
During a recent sixth-grade orientation, parents headed to the library to meet with Principal Craig McCane, Eiseler-Ward and other staff. The sixth graders went to the cafeteria where they participated in songs, getting-to-know-you games and small group sessions lead by art teacher Mandy Clearwaters, other staff, and the eighth-grade mentors.
There were relay races to pop balloons, which segued into a discussion about discovering your own style, whether that may be in the way you pop balloons or how you act in school. There also were questions about whether a student would take $10 right now or $50 in 12 weeks? And then there were comparisons of those choices to one-time offers to join a sports team, and long-term goals such as getting good grades on a report card, which require a commitment of time and energy.
During the activities, the older students were intermingled among the younger ones, sometimes cheering and singing, and sometimes leading small-group discussions about how to handle middle school.
More than 175 students applied to be WEB mentors. From that group 80 were selected for the program, which includes several days of training in the summer. If you’re looking for a common denominator between the student mentors, it is this: They are kind, said Eisler-Ward.
“The only criteria is they have to be kind to kids and to grown-ups,” she said. Other than that the group includes musicians, writers, athletes, video game players, and kids who just want to help. The mentors will keep an eye on the students, and they will respond to requests from teachers to help students they identify as needing support.
Two of this year’s mentors will be Harmony Holt and Humberto Zamora.
Harmony said she always did well in school, so she didn’t need to take advantage of her student mentor, but she said she will be keeping her eye out for kids who might need help with organization and keeping up with their homework.
Humberto said he’s just looking forward to helping sixth graders with the transition to middle school. Sometimes it can be difficult, he said, to get used to multiple teachers and making new friends in a new school.
The transition can be tricky, but it can be managed, Eisler-Ward said. KIds can be easily overwhelmed by the larger school and getting used to multiple teachers, who are responsible for large groups of children. But through the WEB program sixth graders and eighth graders alike can gain a degree of independence and self-esteem.
The goal for all of the students is simply this, she said: ““We have to help them take ownership for their studentship.”

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