Transitioning from middle to high school creates apprehension for most students, but that uneasiness has been diminished thanks to the Westerville City School District’s Junior Mentoring Program. Juniors from each Westerville high school visit with eighth grade students at all four middle schools to build relationships and answer questions. The eleventh graders become role models for the eighth graders, who often grow up to become Junior Mentors themselves.
Junior Mentoring was brought to Westerville by North Principal Kurt Yancey, when he arrived here from Briggs High School in 2007. When Briggs’ Lea Coburn joined him at North, taking on the role of Assistant Principal, the program took off. Eventually, South and Central got on board, as did all four middle schools, and in 2009, Junior Mentoring became a district-wide success story.
Its purpose is twofold – to allow eighth graders to hear about high school from actual high school students; and to give juniors the opportunity to lead by serving as role models.
Becoming a Junior Mentor involves much more than just signing up. At Westerville North, for example, students must apply for the program at the end of their sophomore year. They have to fill out an application, answer essay questions about why they want to mentor, and obtain a teacher recommendation. If they are selected, they must complete training during the summer.
Those who are chosen to mentor receive special shirts which they wear when they visit middle school classrooms four times a year. Each meeting has a theme and purpose, featuring structured activities, fun icebreakers, and discussions about school traditions. A great deal of time is also spent discussing grades, courses, activities and scheduling. This year, Westerville North has approximately 120 Junior Mentors – the most ever.
“It is a true testimonial to the program that so many students want to be mentors,” Yancey concluded. “I think the numbers will continue to grow.”