Bit by bit, the middle school counselor told the high-schoolers about the younger students they were going to meet.
Monica Anderson, eighth-grade counselor at Franklin Community Middle School, told the high school students what they could expect from the eighth- graders, while pointing to a photo of each student.
She talked about their grades and whether they needed to come up. She shared information about their home life, who was raising them and how many siblings they had.
Anderson pointed out whether each child was shy, outgoing or would open up to the high school students.
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Their students’ approach will be key in a new mentoring program to help middle school students make the jump to high school. Franklin Community Middle School recently received a $20,000 grant through the Villages of Indiana for the program. They’ll get a $10,000 grant for each of two years.
“It’s all centered around helping positive peer relationships,” Anderson said.
Each high school student will spend every other Wednesday with an eighth-grade student, getting to know them, playing games to bond and taking field trips with them.
Once the eighth-graders become freshmen at the high school next year, they would already have a mentor they could look up, which would make the transition to another school easier, Anderson said.
Eighteen middle school students have been targeted for the program for reasons that could range from needing a more positive influence in their life to having difficulties handling a transition from one school to another, middle school principal Steve Ahaus said.
“This program is meant to identify the kids that may struggle with that transition,” he said.
High school educators have shared stories with middle school educators of students struggling to fit in at their new, larger school.
Sometimes their grades dropped, and they didn’t get the hang of the academic rigor of a new school.
Targeting and reaching out to students who struggle with the transition from middle school to high school has been a major goal for educators the past few years, Ahaus said.
“We need to help the kids if they’re experiencing change and asking how they are prepared for that,” he said.
Anderson has made an effort to put each student with just the right mentor.
Each high school mentor filled out a sheet telling Anderson about themselves, and Anderson used what she knew about the middle school students to make the pairings.
A high school student was paired with a middle school student because they had gone through a similar situation at home. Two teen boys were paired because they both liked sports. Another pairing was made because of personality similarities.
Anderson met with each high school student and told them about the middle school student’s life so they know what to expect when they met with the student and how the student was feeling about being a part of the program.
High school can be tough, even if a student doesn’t have anxiety with transition or issues at home, Franklin high school junior Payton Holman said.
High school students received training teaching them how to bond with the middle school students and how to build trust with the students they are mentoring.
“High school can be really scary,” Holman said. “Add on top of that, if they have issues out of school, that will just multiply that.”