As the mentors meet with their mentees for the last time this year, the atmosphere is bittersweet. Sweet because there is music in the air and they have grown to really care for one another. Bitter, because senior mentors are moving on and will be missed!

Today, they all came together for the first time. Usually, mentors meet with their mentees in classrooms so they only see their family of five freshmen. But this time the entire freshmen class came into the gym for this culminating event.

A few mentors shared how being a mentor has impacted their life. Kati Kontor told her story about how she came to Gavit from a private school where she had a 3.8 GPA. She very quickly began to hang out with “the wrong crowd”. She said her absences went from something like two in a year to 20 in a semester. Her grades fell and she ended up with a 1.8 GPA her freshmen year. Her message was clear, she became a mentor because she wished she would have had the positive influence of an upperclassman to help her see how she was heading down a destructive path. She said she hopes her influence has made a difference in the lives of some of her freshmen. The trouble is, Kati explained, even though I am now getting good grades again and I’m looking into colleges, my GPA is not very strong since I blew it my freshmen year. I hope I saved some of you from having to learn the hard way like I did. There was applause and even a few tears as the freshmen learned why mentoring has meant so much to them.

Then it was time for the activity. Mentors each instructed their team to silently construct a castle out of index cards. They were to build the most elaborate, detailed castle possible within a limited amount of time. When time was up, they admired their creations and felt proud of what they built as a team.

Then, they were told they had to connect their castle to two other castles by silently building bridges. That’s all the instructions they heard. They looked to their mentors for more cards with which to build their bridges and when their mentors shrugged their shoulders, it dawned on them what must be done. They had to take cards from their own magnificent castles in order to construct bridges.

To observe their faces as this aha moment dawns on each mind across the gym floor is quite amazing. When they were finished, they circled around their “village” and recognized the visual interpretation of what their mentors have been striving for all year – connecting community.

It is very powerful when students take part in creating the kind of climate they want for their school. These mentors volunteer their time, some over 50 hours, so they can help their freshmen class transition into high school. They learn what they teach and become stronger leaders, incorporating the academic and social strategies they shared with their mentees. The result is more students taking responsibility for their own educational experience – and that of their classmates as well. Mentors do indeed make a difference.

Thanks you guys!

Kristen Hartnagel

Photo courtesy of Katie Goodrich, Lead Executive Mentor at Gavit HS

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