I first met my mentor group (Carol Brouillette’s “Brouilletians”) at camp of my freshman year. All of the older students intimidated me at first. While almost none of us are very big in size, every one of the upperclassmen I saw looked so much more mature, in one way or another, than the students I’d met in middle school. Some were loud, some were quiet, some seemed gentle and others abrasive. They all formed a cast of characters of a type I’d never seen before. By the end of those three days of camp, however, I felt included. I did not share the same memories and experiences as the upperclassmen did, but I began to connect with them. In my cabin were the two other freshman girls in my group plus a sophomore girl, and I got to know them more by talking with them during cabin readings and before bed. I left for home still feeling anxious about the upcoming year. However, I left feeling just a bit less alone.
One of the (since graduated) seniors from my group named Emma adopted me as her freshman. This “adoption” of younger mentees has been a very inviting part of the SOTA/SAMi communities in the past. Upperclassmen choose a freshman (typically from their mentor group) to “adopt” and help to guide them through the initial part of high school. Although these big brother/sister relationships may not last the duration of the year, these connections along with adult support from their mentors help new students to ease into an unfamiliar environment. This sort of mentorship is proven to be effective in raising and inspiring students high school-aged and younger. Expert on the topic Michael J. Karcher says that, “Developmental mentoring is a structured, cross-age peer mentoring program designed to promote children's development by facilitating connectedness.”
Mentor group takes place from 10:30-12:30 every Friday. Individual groups do a number of team-building/stress-relieving activities, and events together. These can include games, celebrations, study hall, and even watching movies on the weeks where teachers don’t give so much work. Sometimes this time slot is used for school events, such as the Martin Luther King Day assembly, or the recent Metro Parks tour of Point Defiance in the case of SAMi students.
One of the most renowned traditions among some groups is “Happies and Crappies” (also called “Roses and Thorns”, “Highs and Lows”), where everyone tells one thing that they disliked, and one thing that they enjoyed over the week apart. These Happies and Crappies can go deep. The items shared can range from receiving a low grade on a homework assignment, to the impact a severe illness or death has had on the speaker. Tears are not unheard of among the closer mentor groups. Despite the gloominess this custom can hold, your mentor and fellow mentees serve as therapeutic listeners to whom you can talk about anything that is bothering you – Or on the flip side, anything that you are celebrating. While one person may be feeling badly about something a friend has done, they can still enjoy another mentee’s story of a family member’s triumph over smoking. This trade-off of negativity and positivity is what bonds some of the strongest groups.
Mentor groups at SAMi, SOTA, and now IDEA are integral to the development of community. This dependable set of people, with whom students spend the majority of their high school career, forge bonds among themselves unlike the those of any other high school. Although I feel a sort of platonic, sisterly compassion for my mentor group, I have become close friends with two people in particular after getting to know them through this unique aspect of our community. Seniors graduate, cliques diverge and re-emerge, relationships come and go. The beauty of mentor group is that you will forever be able to hold onto the memories of how it moulded you.
Karcher, Michael J. "The Effects of Developmental Mentoring and High School Mentors' Attendance on Their Younger Mentees' Self-esteem, Social Skills, and Connectedness." Wiley Online Library. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 18 Nov. 2004. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.