Freshmen adjust to life without peer mentors

Seniors note the value of their experience


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From left, freshmen Meghan Klenke and Allie Kaplan greet their peer mentor, senior Payton Synder, at the winter formal in December.

Nya Huff, Reporter

Seniors peer mentors have said goodbye to their freshman mentees now that the second semester has begun. They spent the last five months building relationships and guiding the freshmen at the beginning of their high school journey. The senior peer mentor experience is a place for growth for both ninth-graders and their older guides.

According to Ms. Katie Klee, co-director of the freshman experience, the peer mentoring program has existed on the Hill for several years. Director of philanthropic engagement Mrs. Jean Smith ‘97, who also plays a big role in the peer mentor experience, was a peer mentor when she was a senior.

Klee, Smith and the co-director of the freshman experience, Mr. Howard Fogel, all help select the peer mentors for the upcoming year. Klee said during their junior year, students submit applications including a resume, letters of recommendation and short answers about the traits of a graduate. 

There is then an appeal process in which some additional students may be selected if they weren’t chosen during the first round.

Klee said the seniors “exceeded our expectations” this year because of their vigilance regarding helping their ninth-graders. 

During the first semester, the peer mentors spent their theology period with a freshman resource class and participated in activities with them. Some days they let the freshmen work, but senior Andrew George, who served as a peer mentor, said, “We want to get you guys out of the room almost every day because we used to be the ones sitting there bored every day.” George said he plays football with his mentees whenever they go outside. He has brought a football to school every day since his freshman year thanks to his peer mentor he had as a freshman.

Every resource period is different, so each peer mentor groups did different activities. Senior Ellie Sheddy said, “I enjoyed playing charades in class and our one on ones.”

Senior Max Beatty said, “(I liked) one on ones, walking the trail and playing small games with them.” One on ones are weekly check-ins between mentees and their mentors. During these conversations, grades, advice and personal well-being, among other topics, would be discussed.

To mentor the ninth-graders effectively, you have to build a relationship with the fellow seniors with whom you served as mentors. Sheddy said she enjoyed connecting with those she mentored “because I got to know seniors I had never talked to before.”

A relationship with the freshmen is also required in order to be an effective peer mentor. Sheddy said, “I enjoyed getting to know my mentees because I learned from them as much as I hope they learned from me.”

George said, “It was fun (building a relationship with his mentees). They’re good people, and it was nice getting to know good people and spending time with them.”

When the senior peer mentors were freshmen, the Class of 2017 guided them throughout their first semester of freshman year. The seniors all said they believe that having peer mentors benefits you. Klee said that the seniors were “given the tools to help” by their mentors when they were freshmen. They either wanted to find ways to be more engaging as mentors or lead their mentees in activities they did as freshmen, she said.

Beatty said he did “one on ones, talked about how to get better grades and just built a relationship,” which were all activities that guided him through the first semester of his freshman year. 

George said, “It’s one thing to experience it yourself, and it’s another to see the freshmen do that.” Since they have been in their shoes, helping the freshmen was easier, according to George.

As peer mentors, the seniors made sure they showed the Holy Cross values, especially this year’s core value of family and service to others. Sheddy said, “Being inclusive to everyone in the mentee class and among the mentor group” helped them show the core value of family. 

Beatty said, “Our class is one big family. None of those kids are scared to approach us.” 

Klee said, “(The) time they give completely to freshmen” shows how they approached the value of service to others.

These three peer mentors said they do feel as though they are a family and that they are able to help and learn from one another. The freshmen learn from the seniors, but often, the seniors were taught just as much from the freshmen. Beatty said he discovered that “you should never forget to be happy and don’t forget to have fun.”

Just like the mentees, the senior peer mentors have been impacted throughout this experience. Beatty said it was rewarding. “Seeing them improve was fulfilling,” he said. 

Sheddy said she learned to better empathize throughout the experience and learned how to build a connection with people she didn’t know, especially the Freshman Class.

George said, “I learned so much about what it means to come in and experience something for the first time.”

Klee said she noticed that seniors began to not only hear but to take action to help someone going through a tough time.

Next year, it will be the Class of 2021’s turn to guide the incoming Freshman Class. Sheddy’s advice: “Get to know your mentees quickly and spend as much time with them as you can during the week.”

In order to be an effective peer mentor, Beatty said, “You’re there to help the kids, not do (school) work. Be available and take advantage of the opportunity.” 

Klee’s message for the incoming peer mentors: “ Be excited about the opportunity to positively impact the life of a freshman.”