Using high school students as mentors for grade school students is not only a good idea, but one that has been used with success in various areas of the country. In the Kansas City, MO area the mentoring program is one of the areas high school students in the A+ program can volunteer. The A+ program requires high school students to maintain a C average or better, miss no more than a specified number of school days per year, and not have any disciplinary problems. By meeting these standards, the high school student earns 2 years, tuition free, at one of the area junior colleges. So there are benefits in the program for both the high school students and the grade school students involved.
Once the high school student applies and is accepted to the A+ program and volunteers to be a mentor, he is given some basic training and then assigned to an area Elementary School. The student then shows up at that particular school one or two days a week and is placed with a small group of grade schoolers. These are the children that the mentor will be working with each week. By pairing the mentor with the same group of students, a bond is allowed to form which helps the younger children with there work. The student mentors are monitored by qualified teachers to insure that the appropriate material is being covered and that appropriate behavior is being observed. The teacher is required to report to the High School periodically on the mentor’s conduct and attendance.
Many communities and schools now place a premium on getting high school students to perform a specified number of hours volunteering for various after school community projects. The mentoring program gives students who might be interested in pursuing a teaching certificate the opportunity to work with younger children. While the program does not mirror an actual school day, it does give the teen a chance to interact with younger children for one or two hours a week, or more. This does give the high school student an opportunity to see if they would be good working with grade schoolers. It also gives the elementary student the opportunity to form a relationship with a teen. Something that might not be possible in their own family. It also introduces them to the idea that helping someone younger than themselves is a good thing to do. And it may even give the younger child an older role model who could have a possible influence on their life.
Besides giving the high school student an opportunity for 2 years of college, it shows them that they are a valuable asset to their community. Because many of the high school students received the assistance of a mentor when they were in grade school, they know the value of the student volunteers. And many of these students have looked forward to participating in the program for years. Which is just one indication that the program works. And there are others. Some of the elementary schools are now using sixth graders as a big buddy for first grade students, helping first graders get use to the new school and spending an hour each week helping the first grader with reading. These type of programs help give the older student a sense of ownership and of individual worth. Something that every student needs to help their sense of self-esteem.
Any type of program which gets teens involved constructively in their community has benefit, both to the student and to the community at large. Mentoring programs not only are of benefit to the students involved, but to the teachers as well. Teachers are given assistance in helping their students overcome difficulties reading but in other subjects as well. Working closely with the teachers to whom they are assigned, the teen is given an opportunity to shine in a subject at which they excel. And the community as a whole reaps the benefits.