Peer Mentoring Starts Virtually: There’s a First Time for Everything

Seniors+Jack+Lowman%2C+Mark+Colavita%2C+Caitlyn+Kowalski%2C+Nora+Ferro%2C+Casey+Kiernan%2C+and+Sam+Renz+attending+the+Peer+Mentor+Retreat+2019.

Seniors Jack Lowman, Mark Colavita, Caitlyn Kowalski, Nora Ferro, Casey Kiernan, and Sam Renz attending the Peer Mentor Retreat 2019.

Nora Ferro, Staff Writer

The new Peer Mentoring year started virtually for the first time this Wednesday, Oct. 21. This school program includes about 70 juniors and seniors who over two school years, mentor 20 freshmen each and help them navigate their first year in high school. 

Due to the coronavirus and most students learning from home, peer mentoring was unable to start in-person this year as usual. Fortunately, the four advisors, Gil Pilarte, Anne Krug, John Vitale, and Laura Houssell, were able to set up a plan for virtual meetings, utilizing the google classroom extension and google meets. 

The initial struggle was setting up a “retreat” to meet partners and plan for the first module, since the physical retreat could not take place in May earlier this year. After the pairings were made and freshmen groups were assigned, the pairs had to reach out to them through email, persuading them to show up to these virtual meetings during after school hours. 

Despite these issues, the majority of peer mentors said their first day went well with some groups having close to perfect attendance, and others having few kids but still enjoying the planned activities, like a “would you rather” game, and discussing a variety of topics to get them engaged and talking as a group. These online games differ greatly from the usual hands-on activities like the human knot, hula hoop races, or playing catch with various objects as each student shares a thought or fact about themselves. These typical group tasks help develop a bond between the students and leaders, and they all learn to work together towards a common goal. Because these meetings are currently online, the task of getting to know each other becomes harder. Luckily, the peer mentors are persistent and want to get through to the freshmen no matter what. 

All involved are trying their best to make this program work under the new circumstances of the world and different school environment. Hopefully the program can return to normal at some point, but for now, everyone just has to be grateful to technology for still bringing the groups together in a unique way and stay positive about the program overall.