New peer mentoring programs in Hayden, South Routt designed to bridge gaps | SteamboatToday.com

New peer mentoring programs in Hayden, South Routt designed to bridge gaps

Partners launches new programs in Hayden, South Routt

Ben Ingersoll

Hayden High School senior Taylor Lewis, right, fills out a get-to-know-you questionnaire with freshman Garrett Murphy last Wednesday. Parters in Routt County has launched a peer mentoring program in both Hayden and South Routt schools to help upperclassmen lead younger students in difficult life and scholastic transitions.

— Both Taylor Colding and Sidney McCourt can reflect with clarity on their experiences as first-day freshmen four years ago.

For Colding, his inaugural high school days were spent in the same Hayden High School halls that he will graduate from in May. As a freshman, he mostly kept to himself alongside his same-age peers, feeling distanced from the upperclassmen.

"I just thought, ‘Oh, they probably don’t want me around,’" Colding said. "’I’ll just go to my class, leave them be, chill in my hall.’"

For McCourt, Hayden High School is her fourth and final high school stop after three different transfers since she turned 14.

Things may have been different for the two-year Hayden high school student, but the barriers McCourt faced were similar to Colding’s experience.

"I remember thinking everyone older was a lot cooler than everyone my age, which actually wasn’t true at all," McCourt said.

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As part of Partners in Routt County’s peer-mentoring program, Colding and McCourt are just two of 17 Hayden seniors working to bridge the social and scholastic gap that often never closes between seniors and freshmen. Those 17 mentors represent more than half of Hayden’s 30 seniors.

Partners received a grant from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation that supports peer mentoring in Hayden and South Routt schools for the 2014-15 school year.

At Hayden, it’s a seniors-to-freshmen connection, but at South Routt, the program is a bit different. Five sophomores were hand picked to team up with South Routt Elementary School fifth-graders to help with a different kind of transition — a jump from the elementary campus in Yampa to the middle school campus adjacent to the high school in Oak Creek.

"In South Routt, they felt like there was a definite need for disconnected students to feel connected, especially with fifth-graders in that transition," Partners Community Outreach Manager Becky Slamal said. "When we came up with who would be good participants, I think fifth grade definitely stood out as mentees."

Both Hayden and South Routt mentors and mentees have been meeting once a week and will continue to do so until graduation. A Partners staff member on each campus helps facilitate mentoring exercises, which are still in the “get-to-know-you” phase, Slamal said.

Partners’ school-based mentoring program manager Lindsay Kohler is heading up the program in Hayden while Slamal is overseeing operations in South Routt.

"The goals are for both the mentor and the mentee to develop," Slamal said. "The mentors are hopefully developing leadership skills and confidence, and the mentees are kind of the same thing, but for them, it’s more for self esteem and feeling connected with an older peer."

Just two Wednesday meetings into the program, Colding and McCourt already are sensing a difference in their menthes.

Last week, Kohler asked the Hayden seniors to meet with their freshmen mentees and write on index cards some of their goals and their passions — just another way to loosen up the barrier between the age groups.

"I’m starting to see (my mentees) change already, from this time to last time," McCourt said. "I hope they ask me about problems they have. I’ve been through the same things, and I always wished I had someone to get me to come out of my comfort zone and help."

It’s that kind of response Slamal said the new program is designed for, but she would like to see it blossom into more by the end of May.

"A lot of them have said ‘I wish when I was a freshman I had an upperclassman tell me what it would be like and how to do certain things,’" Slamal said. "I think before they graduate they see it as an opportunity to leave a legacy at their school."

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

In collaboration with National No Name Calling Week, the AmeriCorps school-based mentors participated Monday in a day of service in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Mentors led anti-bullying activities at Hayden and South Routt middle schools as well as Hayden Valley Elementary School.

Soroco middle schoolers viewed a video based on a poem called “To This Day” and a team-wide discussion was held after the video.

Hayden middle schoolers held an open discussion that allowed students to create dialogue on the negative impacts of bullying and name calling. Hayden elementary school students were introduced to an anti-bullying pledge — one where they sign their name as a commitment against bullying.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

In collaboration with National No Name Calling Week, the AmeriCorps school-based mentors participated Monday in a day of service in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Mentors led anti-bullying activities at Hayden and South Routt middle schools as well as Hayden Valley Elementary School.

Soroco middle schoolers viewed a video based on a poem called “To This Day” and a team-wide discussion was held after the video.

Hayden middle schoolers held an open discussion that allowed students to create dialogue on the negative impacts of bullying and name calling. Hayden elementary school students were introduced to an anti-bullying pledge — one where they sign their name as a commitment against bullying.