By Jannaya Garcia and Priya Kaur
When walking around Summit Tahoma, it is a common sight to see students dressed up in their mentor gear. Mentor groups at Tahoma have come up with traditions with their group to create some type of clothing article to represent their group. For example, Audrey Hart’s group all have matching yellow Crocs and sweatshirts; Laura Ochoa’s group all have sweatshirts saying “Blue Strips,” the name they came up with for their group.
High school can often be very stressful for students as they feel they do not have anyone to share their stress with. This is where mentor groups play a role.
Jovanna Garcia, a senior at Tahoma, said, “I feel like mentor groups help because at a regular high school you wouldn’t have a group that’s always with you, or, like I said, someone to lean back on, and, because of it, we are able to go into the community more since we are so involved with each other.”
Mentor groups are a very unique part of Summit Tahoma, a high school in San Jose. It is a system in which students get together with the same group of students, paired with a mentor at the end of each day, all throughout their high school journey.
Students are able to share how they’re feeling with their mentors as well as fellow mentees. Over time, they build very close relationships with one another and are able to trust their groups to be there for them.
Not only do mentor groups help strengthen students’ community skills, they also give students a safe space to communicate with their groups. Having this sort of support system gives Thunderbirds the opportunity to confide in a trusted adult and build a family type of bond with a diverse group of students.
Megan Toyama, the assistant director of Tahoma, provided her insight of what the benefits of having mentor groups are. She said, “I think that mentor groups is one of the most unique and special parts of the Summit education. When mentor groups are created, they are crafted intentionally to be diverse in all aspects. This allows students to form community with students that have a different background. When I was a mentor, I thought it was so cool that two students who were in different friend groups were able to be so close because they were in the same mentor group. Additionally, mentors play the key role of the college counselor for their mentees and support them through the college application process.”
In an interview with Tahoma English teacher Michael Haley, who has no mentor group, he described how he has seen growth in students who reach out to their mentors, but he also explained how mentor groups could be improved. “Sometimes the student could depend too much on the mentor rather than the teacher. More student leadership should come out of the mentor groups,” he said. He also shared insight into how he could help resolve these issues if he had his own group.
He said, “I could bring to the mentee paradigm, more growth mindset in students, more open-mindedness and willingness to accept new ideas, and I also can emphasize the Summit value of curiosity.” Micheal Haley believes that if he were to have a mentor group, he could improve some of the habits that he has seen in mentor groups now that he believes needs work.
Although they participate in many team bonding activities with their groups, how exactly do mentor groups help support students with their academic abilities?
See below for a video where mentors and mentees share their experiences: