Class prepares peer mentors for their new roles

Course provides information, training for juniors

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Class prepares peer mentors for their new roles

Juniors enrolled in the C period peer mentoring class await instructions from teacher Ms. Katie Klee.

Juniors enrolled in the C period peer mentoring class await instructions from teacher Ms. Katie Klee.

Maggie Johnson

Juniors enrolled in the C period peer mentoring class await instructions from teacher Ms. Katie Klee.

Maggie Johnson

Maggie Johnson

Juniors enrolled in the C period peer mentoring class await instructions from teacher Ms. Katie Klee.

Emma Kress, Reporter

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As of the second semester, a peer mentoring preparation class for juniors has been started for the first time in the history of the program. The class takes the place of the future peer mentors’ theology course. 

Miss Katie Klee, sophomore theology teacher and co-director of peer mentor program and freshman experience program, explained her responsibilities in leading the peer mentoring program.

Klee said, “For the past year, my role has been to select the peer mentors for last year and this coming year and also once selected, help them develop leadership skills and training so that they can work with freshmen during their freshman resource. So throughout this past semester, we have been teaching a class on days 2 and 5 during flex to the peer mentors and helping guide them through what to cover.”

Next year’s peer mentors will get a different experience, as they will have completed a class prior to becoming peer mentors, rather than during that semester. Klee said, “They will be enrolled in a class that would take the place of their theology class. We might be meeting with them throughout that first semester as they’re in the freshman resource classes, but the majority of the teaching and preparation are going on this coming semester.” 

However, this does not mean that these juniors will not learn theology. Klee said, “We will be covering the core concepts of what they would be otherwise learning in that theology class, as well as leadership training and social/emotional learning, so they can be prepared.”

Klee explained the benefits of the peer mentoring class. She said, “I can only speak from this past year running it, but it felt a bit like we were learning things and helping guide them in the things that freshmen were experiencing as it was happening. 

“I think the class will help us take a proactive approach to how to best prepare them and make them feel truly confident in developing those leadership skills, whether they have them or need to keep building them, so that by the time the freshmen come next year, they feel totally confident and ready to guide them at that point.”

Junior Madison Ackley, who was accepted to be a peer mentor and take the class, said that she believes that the peer mentoring course will effect a positive change. She said, “I’m not going to lie in that I will kind of miss my theology class. But I think having prepared peer mentors is paramount. We want to improve the freshmen’s experiences in high school, and improve their character, as well as our own. The class will be valuable and applicable to life as a whole.”

Because peer mentors must now take a class in the second semester of their junior year, applications occurred earlier this year. Klee said, “In October, we asked all of the applicants to answer questions about how they can speak to the elements of portrait of a graduate. They also had to have two recommendations and their resume. We had 146 (applications), which is about half of the Junior Class.

“We went through them and talked about each of these students in our review of applications, and then we decided to meet with some of the students that we didn’t know very well so that we could get to know them better than just from reading their applications. Otherwise, we felt like we had a good grasp on who the other students were.”

Out of the 146 people who applied, 61 were able to be chosen as peer mentors. Klee said, “The thing I was looking for is if students were well able to embody the portrait of a graduate, but also be able to speak to the fact that our Freshman Class will be really diverse in so many ways. We needed seniors who could speak to and speak from that sense of diversity, so we chose students who are all over the board academically, socially and spiritually. We felt like that would be the best way for them to be able to connect with the freshmen.”

Ackley was one of the 61 students accepted into the peer mentoring program. She said that she applied as soon as she was made aware of it, as she knew it was a program that she would want to participate in. 

Ackley said, “In grade school, I did all of the programs similar to peer mentoring and really enjoyed them. I also wanted the opportunity to improve the transition from grade school to high school for my mentees. Lastly, I wanted the opportunity to ensure incoming students know that it is not okay to make fun of other students for any reason, which I worry has been perpetuated on some level in the grade schools.”

Because so many people applied to be peer mentors, Klee said that making decisions on who to accept was challenging. “It was a really difficult decision to choose from such a great pool of applicants, who all pretty much fit the criteria of what we were looking for,” she said. 

Klee shared her hopes for the peer mentoring program. She said, “We’re keeping with the goal that began the program in the first place, which was that we want to keep freshmen here and help the transition in smoothly. So we are hoping that these senior peer mentors can help be a positive influence and show freshmen how to be successful both socially and academically.”

Some of Ackley’s motivation for wanting to become a peer mentor stems from her own experience as a freshman. She said, “I’m looking forward to feeling like a leader and having the ability to make a kid feel welcomed and appreciated. That was something I found a bit lacking in my peer mentor group as a freshman, and I would love to make it a focus this coming year. I want to get my kids to the point where they look forward to our group meetings, and I want them to feel heard.”

By changing the peer mentoring program in order to better prepare peer mentors, Klee said that she plans for the program will improve for the better. She said, “We’re really hopeful with this group of people we have a great group of role models to really help these freshman next year. We’re really excited to see what happens with this new initiative.”