The High School Jump: Mentoring for Transitioning Freshmen

By Hannah Leber 

We all know that the transition from middle school to high school is more similar to a pole vault than a stair step, but this year the upper-classmen have taken measures to attempt to help the incoming freshmen adjust to the college prep lifestyle. Tri-City Prep’s Peer Assistance Leadership (PAL) program has always taken the reins when it comes to welcoming the new students.

During previous years, PAL has focused mainly on strengthening the relationships between the freshmen as a class, but this year they took a new approach. Instead of organizing class and/or team building games to unite the newbies as usual, PAL assigned mainly upper-classmen to become something known as Freshmen Mentors.

Each Mentor was assigned to a group of four or five freshmen who they would meet up with two times for about 10-20 minutes during the three week block, which is also known as “Freshmen First”. What each Mentor did with their small groups during these sessions was up to them, ranging anywhere from games to just sitting around and talking about life.

Ashley Santillian, the PAL President and a senior this year, stated, “This year, PAL has really stepped up in mentoring the new incoming students. PAL has started to plan some events to do with the small groups. We hope that our mentoring will help the incoming students to transition smoothly and have a great first year at Tri-City.”

PAL’s hope is that by connecting personally to the freshmen, the new students will feel more welcome and comfortable at Tri-City, and regard this transition into their new school easy. Of course, as with everything, there were varying accounts on how helpful or enjoyable the Freshmen Mentoring program itself was.

Mentor Eva Suarez reported, “I think it went well. I mean, it was cool for us to meet new freshmen and get to know some of them, but I’m not sure how they enjoyed it. They were kind of stand-offish. At least in my group, they weren’t really fond of the idea of having mentors and stuff. They weren’t really open and didn’t want to have conversations. A couple of them were happy about having a mentor, and it gave them a sense of relief, I guess, but the others didn’t want anything to do with me.”

The President, Santillian, later stated, “We first established trust and asked them questions. All the freshmen seemed to open up more during our second meeting, and they all seemed to enjoy conversing with new people.”

It was reported that the majority of the freshmen were uneasy about the entire Freshmen Mentoring program, but most became more open to the idea as time progressed. Of course, it mainly depends on the person and their level of comfort with this new environment, but these inferences were from the point of view of the Mentors; the freshmen had their own opinions.

One particular freshman, Patricia Azevedo, said, “I thought the mentoring went well and was a good opportunity to hear about the school from a peer’s point of view.”

 Everybody transitions and copes differently, so PAL can only hope to assist the process in any way they can, which may or may not benefit everybody equally. The Freshmen Mentoring program is scheduled to continue throughout the year, pulling the small groups back together for certain activities and team building games. It has not yet been discussed whether the program will continue into future years.