New Mentorship Program Aims to Make a Connection

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In reaction to COVID-19, General Mclane enacts a new Mentorship program. (Credit: Ossian Glenn)

Ossian Glenn, Reporter

What is the purpose of mentorship?

   “It’s a great opportunity for kids to get connected to one teacher, and the way that we’re doing mentorship this year is to help kids learn how to process things that are maybe challenging in their lives, give them the tools to work through difficulties and just be there for them, and help them grow into better individuals,” stated Kathryn Thompson, art teacher.

   Mentorship is a fifteen minute period that takes place everyday after first block.  During the time, students report to their assigned mentor teacher for announcements and a brief lesson or activity.  

    According to history teacher, Kevin Wible, the goal of mentorship is for students to be able to create a bond with their mentor teacher. “It’s just designed to create a situation where every student has at least one more, the way I always refer to them is, ‘caring adults’, that they have contact with on a regular basis, so that they feel a connection with school, that they have somebody that if they need something they can go to,” Wible explained.      

     The idea for the program started as a way to help students who were struggling academically, especially during the pandemic. Mentorship is overseen by a group of teachers called the MTSS Team, which stands for Multi-Tiered System of Support. This team of teachers partnered with a branch of the  Penn State Behrend’s psychology department called the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Community Outreach, Research, and Evaluation (CORE). This program helped MTSS develop their curriculum for mentorship. 

   A critical member of this team is language arts teacher Melanie Mischler. Mischler explains the purpose behind the MTSS Team: “MTSS Team is a group of teachers, guidance counselors, the nurse, [and] administration. It’s a team we put together to help student support, to find ways to help students, to provide interventions for them as needed, students who might be struggling academically… just to find ways to help them.” 

     Wible further explains that “MTSS is a team of teachers that are looking for ways to create what we call interventions, like things to help kids and identify kids that might have an issue or a problem.” Wible continued, “I think this mentorship is just another one of those pieces that try to… help with kids that might be struggling in certain areas.”

      Along with a formal survey that was conducted on mentorship by Penn State Behrend on Friday, Sept. 24, the Lancer Ledger conducted an Instagram poll that showed that an estimated 61% of students said that they do not understand the purpose of the period. This has most likely been caused due to the fact that there has been no public information about mentorship for students to access. 

   “I think what would have been better is if the whole student body was addressed to explain what mentorship was as a whole, instead of individually by the teachers. That way everyone would be on the same page,” elaborated Mrs. Thompson, who even suggested an idea on how to address the lack of information on mentorship. “I think having it explained maybe in a video… or at an assembly, I think that would make it a lot clearer. I think if everyone understood what it was for, many more people would be on board.”

      However, students have their own opinions on mentorship. “I like mentorship because it’s like a break in between my day… and I feel like that break is needed after going back from half days to full days,” explained Joseph Bucko, freshman. 

   Others voiced an opinion as well. “I’d rather do something else with that time, just do my homework,” stated junior Landon Olszewski. These differing opinions have most likely been caused by the fact that there isn’t any easily accessible information about mentorship for students. 

      When asked whether mentorship would become a permanent part of student’s schedules, Mischler replied, “That is what we are anticipating, that it is a permanent part of the schedules, so with freshmen who are assigned to a mentorship, the intent is that they’re with that group of students, that teacher for their entire high school career… that’s the intent, so there’s at least one adult in the building that they have that connection to, that is making that connection.”

     But has it had an effect? “I don’t think it’s had much of an impact yet because I don’t think we’ve had an opportunity to really embrace it. We have so many other new things that we’re trying to get used to with the start of the school year and the middle of a pandemic after being out. But I think it has a lot of potential to do  a lot of good for a lot of kids in public schools,” Wible elaborated. 

   The mentorship program has only been in effect for a month, but as it develops it will become evident whether mentorship will reach its goal and be able to, as Mrs. Thompson put it, “help students feel like they have a purpose here, and they belong somewhere at the high school.”