Freshman peer mentoring eases transition, improves high school success
- Summit High School in California uses a mentoring program called Link Crew that weaves upperclassmen, teachers and administrators into a web of support for 9th graders by providing every freshman with an assigned 11th- or 12th-grade student to guide them through the first year, Education Week reports.
- At Summit, pairs of upperclassmen, known as "link leaders" oversee groups of 12 freshmen after these leaders undergo a week-long training session that teaches them how to build relationships with freshmen and serve as their academic and social supports.
- The freshman year is a “well-known stumbling point for high school students” at most high schools, but the mentoring program at Summit High School has seen success: Between the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years alone, the school saw a 35% drop in the number of courses freshmen failed.
High school offers many challenges to students, and the transition from middle school can set the tone of failure or success from the start, influencing students' paths in life as well. The Link Crew mentoring approach that seems to be working so well at Summit High School is one of several such approaches available to schools to help lessen these challenges. STARS (Students Teaching About Relationships and Success) is another program designed to support at-risk teens in high school. The Buddy Program also uses high school students as mentors to elementary and middle school students to start that transition even earlier.
Peer mentoring has been shown to increase academic success. A study from Rutgers University measured the impact of the Center for Supportive Schools’s Peer Group Connection - High School (PGC-HS) mentoring program on graduation rates at one school in an urban community, finding that PGC-HS improved graduation rates of participants overall by 9% and those of male participants by 18%.
However, the choice of these mentors is critical. This is a situation in which emotional intelligence trumps academic intelligence in effectiveness. As Summit's Link Crew coordinator, teacher Jennifer Karpinski said, "The most important thing we look for is kids who can show kindness. We need kids who represent the full range of diversity we have here, so students can relate to them. We need the good students, sure, but we also need the quiet kids, the kids just learning English, the kids who have overcome a lot."
- Education Week Peers Guide 9th Graders Through 'Make-or-Break' Year