By Hailey Jacobs
Byram Hills has a unique experience for all incoming freshmen, known as mentor program. The program is designed to help assimilate freshmen into the high school by assigning each student to a first period class guided by two senior mentors and one mentor teacher. The purpose is to help to facilitate a smooth transition from middle school into the hectic high school environment by helping build a sense of community within each mentor class and by encouraging each individual to be confident in his/her beliefs.
Mr. Andriello, a mentor teacher and the head of the mentor program, thinks “mentor has three overarching goals.” He expresses the first goal as helping “freshmen make a successful transition into the high school.” On the first day of school, the senior mentors gave the freshman a tour of the school and helped them learn how to read their schedule. The mentors also act as “someone who is looking out for the freshman, while also providing the guidance needed.” It is helpful for freshman to have a mentor as an older role model to act as a friend and also an advisor.
Mr. Andriello considers the second goal to be to “build a sense of community within each mentor class,” or to create a space where the freshmen bond and facilitate unity. The mentor classes do a variety of activities, including having class parties and playing yogi ball. During yogi ball games, the whole mentor class wears the yogi ball t-shirts that they customized together.
The third goal is “to help freshman reflect on who they are, what they value, and what they want to become.” For example, lessons on academic integrity and bullying are intended to challenge the freshmen to understand who they are and who they want to be.
Current freshman Amanda Nivasch, who has Matt Milone and Olivia Tauber as her mentors, said “the mentor program, to me, comforts freshmen by making them feel welcomed and understand the school better.” The senior mentors create a sense of familiarity for freshmen, especially if they do not know anybody older in the school. Acknowledging her mentor teacher, Mr. Andriello, Amanda says that “[he] is on top of everything and organizes the class very well, while making it fun.” Mentor is primarily run by the senior mentors, but the role of the mentor teacher is to keep the class under control and add to the enjoyment. In addition, having a teacher mentor helps the students get to know some of the teachers who can also help them with their experience academically and socially in the high school.
Mentor Ally Tuzzo describes one interesting activity done in mentor classes. The senior mentors “pose questions and have students move to the side of the room depending on if they strongly agree, agree, strongly disagree, or disagree with the statement.” This enables the students to show their opinion, but also listen to the other sides of the argument. She says it helps the students “become comfortable with their values.” Although a student might believe something different than his/her friend, the student is encouraged to voice his/her own opinions. This further shows how the program can help freshman become comfortable in the classroom and build confidence in themselves while also expanding their ideas.
Overall, the mentor program encourages and builds the confidence of each freshman. Student and teacher mentors provide familiarity for the students when walking around the school and are always there for them academically and socially. This program serves an important role in the school because its purpose provides a sense of stability for the incoming freshmen as they try to assimilate into the high school.