by Rachel Jones

One of the biggest reasons that freshmen are nervous going into high school is because suddenly they aren’t the biggest kids in the school like they were in eighth grade. “They went from the top of the totem pole to the bottom of the food chain,” said senior Brendan Shannon. The Stuart administration has had an ongoing goal of making freshmen feel more comfortable as they make the transition between middle and high school. Last year, Principal Prosperanta Calhoun challenged the administration to search for different student to student mentoring programs. Modeling its program after onesalready in place at Langley, McLean and South Lakes, Stuart has created its own program to put those goals into action.

“The program is about building relationships and assisting freshmen to better adjust to the high school environment.” said program coordinator Tor Strom.To join the program, upperclassmen must be recommended by a teacher and fill out an application. The juniors and seniors entered into the program are assigned a group of freshmen to mentor. Mentors meet with their students at least once a month during their gym return periods, for about 15 to 20 minutes.

“We do team building activities to become more comfortable with the school,” said freshman Berkley Wilkins.

Another freshman, Catie Worley, also has good things to say about the program.

“[My mentor] makes sure that I have everything I need to do well in my classes.” said Worley. The students spend their time together asking and answering questions about the schedule, school events or the school in general.

“I love mentoring because I have so much fun with my freshmen,” said junior and mentor Taylor Livelli. “They’re always willing to interact and share and it’s helped us become really close.”

Stuart’s mentoring program has proved to be very beneficial for most of the freshmen. Every freshman is provided with an upperclassmen to talk to about schoolwork, classes, schedule and life.

“It has created a safe and comfortable environment between the upperclassmen and the freshmen, and it has also made their middle to high school transition so much easier,” said junior Stephany Perez-Rojas. Even though each freshman only meets with their mentor for a limited amount of time, they already feel more accustomed to the Stuart Community.

“[Freshmen] have a significant transition between middle and high school,” said Strom. “I think that if upperclassmen honestly reflect back on their own freshman year [the program] is extremely helpful.”

Though tailored to helping freshmen, mentors have also gotten the chance to better themselves. “The program will help these upperclassmen in all aspects of their life; the ability to clearly listen and communicate with others is a valuable commodity.” said Strom. Juniors and seniors who are members of the mentoring program have improved themselves by showing leadership, communication and cooperation skills.

“The skills we’ve learned will stay with us through high school and the rest of our lives,” said junior Whitten Rutledge.

Photo by Rachel Jones