Khanisha Moore, On-Track Coach at Westhill High School in Stamford, CT knows the importance of helping students stay on-track in high school, beginning with their freshman year. Giving students the resources they need to achieve their goals is essential to their success, but Grade 9 students are not always familiar with the resources that are available, or where or how to access them. That gave Ms. Moore an idea. She created Future Forward Friend (F3) Mentoring, a new peer-to-peer program focused on making freshman year a success.
The F3 program launched in Quarter 2 of the 2021-2022 school year. There are currently 14 mentors, all former Grade 9 On-Track Coach caseload students who successfully completed their freshman year and were selected to serve as peer mentors to current freshmen being supported by On-Track Coaches. Mentors are paired with students who may be struggling with academic, social or behavioral challenges. As students who have successfully navigated Grade 9, the mentors are well-suited to understand the aspirations and fears associated with the middle to high school transition and freshman year, and support their mentees’ success.
Through weekly communication with their mentees, F3 mentors work to build strong relationships that help the freshmen to network with peers, faculty, and the administration, as well as refer these students to appropriate resources, as needed. The mentors help students build a safe space and provide a trustworthy friend by sharing their own challenges and successes, and using their own experiences as lessons and testimonies to the importance of staying on-track.
F3 focuses on the RISE Youth Development framework: Self Regulation, Self Advocacy, Self Motivation and Positive Relationships. “The importance of students becoming more self aware in their pursuit of ninth grade success is important. This program provides a positive extra push that they might not get elsewhere,” says Ms. Moore. “Students get excited about a text from their mentor. They are inspired and motivated. You can see a sense of pride and responsibility developing.”
And the mentors gain a lot In return. Through the F3 program, mentors strengthen their communication and interpersonal skills, including conflict resolution; gain a deeper understanding of campus resources; develop a sense of leadership; and increase their sense of belonging in their school and community. Mentors additionally earn community service credits.
Bianca, one of Westhill’s F3 mentors, sees the positive changes that being a mentor has brought about in her. “Being a mentor is a privilege. Because of my grades, attendance and behavior I am now able to help students see the importance of being on-track. As a mentor I feel that I have grown to become more responsible, more mature and encouraging. I look forward to seeing how my mentee finishes off the year, and I’m hoping that next year we can be mentors together.”
As referenced by the name, Westhill’s mentoring program is thinking of the future, not just today. The mentees of today will become the mentors of future Grade 9 students. This is a big win for Westhill’s efforts toward building a strong youth development culture.