New Freshmen Mentoring Program Begins At RHS

As the new class of freshmen arrived at Rockland High School they were greeted with a new program designed to welcome and assist them. The Freshmen Mentoring Program, known as HYPE (Helping Your Peers Excel) is made up of twenty-three RHS juniors and seniors.

The junior and senior mentors, selected after an in-depth application process, signed a contract in which they agreed to commit fully to checking in with their assigned freshmen at least once a month and also to respond to any emails, or texts they receive from their mentees.

The mentors went through training on August 14, a week before the Freshmen Open House on August 21. In the training they learned what they should expect with the program. They also went through multiple scenarios to practice and improve their leadership skills. At the open house freshmen met their mentors and accompanied them on a tour of the building.

Mrs. Adrienne Donovan, Family Consumer Science teacher at Rockland High and the faculty advisor to the mentor program, explained the initial reason for starting the program. “We wanted to provide a sort of bridge between junior and senior high, so that people could have a ‘familiar face’ when they enter their freshman year.” Mrs. Donovan compared the mentoring program to a “group hug that has many benefits.” Mrs. Donovan aksi said the need for a program that provided guidance to the freshman class has been talked about for almost two years. With the help of staff and Principal John Harrison, it finally became a reality in this 2019-2020 school year.

Dr. Harrison said, “The Freshmen Mentoring Program is an opportunity for us to create a more supportive community where our upperclassmen are taking care of our new students.”

Along with the benefits to the incoming freshmen there are many positives to the program for the mentors. Senior Tyler Johnson said, “So far, this program has been beneficial to me as well. I have learned so much about how to be a better leader and I have met a lot of the new freshmen.” Johnson explained, “I feel as if I have just the right number of freshmen to mentor. Although I am mentoring eight freshmen, I am able to do group and individual conversations or activities with my mentees. It also helps them feel comfortable talking to me, knowing that they have their peers there as well.”

Senior mentor, Elizabeth McGaffigan described how Dr. Harrison came to her last year and encouraged her to apply. So far she’s very happy she did. McGaffigan says she is looking forward to continuing to help the freshmen through their first year and preparing them for sophomore year.

Senior Jad Bendarkawi who is “super pumped” to be a mentor explained why he thinks the program is so beneficial.   “I became a mentor because I remember being really lost as a freshman and didn’t know much about joining clubs/ sports so I think I would have benefitted from having a mentor. When I heard we were going to have a mentor program I knew I wanted to share my experience and help out in any way possible!”

Mentors will be contacting their mentees at least one time per month. They are also encouraged to have informal conversations with their freshmen and create a friendship with them to make them feel welcome.   Freshmen can contact their mentors anytime with questions or issues they need help with.

Dr. Harrison said, “My hope for the program is that each freshman feels connected to an upperclassman student.”

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