By Maritza Aguirre, Cecelia Carrillo, Blanca Melgarejo and Jordan Ricardez
Family, friends, community. Where can you find these things? Summit Rainier, a high school in San Jose, uses mentor groups to build community by allowing students to meet and interact with people students normally wouldn’t interact with.
A mentor group is a group of students put together during freshman year who are paired with a mentor for all of high school. This system is designed to help students receive one-on-one guidance from a teacher and to help them learn to create a family-type relationship.
With this system in place, the school has grown closer together. As Sunli Kim, a sophomore mentor at Rainier, stated, “I don’t think that the people in our group would have naturally come together or joined or become a friend group. And I think because everyone is so different in it, it gives people a chance to meet new people that they might have thought they wouldn’t have normally associated with. But students realize that ‘Oh I actually do have a lot in common with this person.’”
In most high schools, students have a hard time coming together. They are too scared to approach their teacher and other students. But with the mentor system, students are put in an environment where they have to talk with others around them.
Part of the mentor system is a class called HCC. HCC stands for habits, culture, and community. During this 55-minute block, the mentor group meets and participates in fun activities.
A very common activity is circle; this is when the group sits in a circle and talks to each other about their day. As Kimberly Castro, a sophomore at Rainier, stated, “Once a week we tell each other what’s going on in our lives; some people just say that everything is fine and then others really open up, and it gives me an insight into what their world looks like. ‘Cause, of course, it’s different from mine, so I kinda get to see what they’re going through.”
Having circle is important in this community because, at such a diverse school, people need time to talk about their feelings and have a place to make friends. In most other public schools, students are thrown into high school. They do not have any way to feel comfortable with a teacher or any teachers.
But as Edwin Avarca, the assistant director at Rainier, stated, “If you’re going to have 15-20 minutes of a multicultural group of students, why not use it to build up the student to help them be better aware of their emotional well-being and help them better understand their goals and what it takes to accomplish those goals?”
Having this type of system in place at school makes students closer to the people around them. The students are given an opportunity to interact and make friends, and after four years a mentor group can turn into a family.
Starting as nothing but strangers, mentor groups turn into a family. All these mentor group families come together and make a welcoming community for everyone.
To hear more about mentor groups, check out this video.
To learn more about mentor walls, click on this slideshow.