Get Schooled: A New Elementary Mentorship Program at SBAI and Stratford
At 10:41 a.m., elementary school students at the Spring Branch Academic Institute (SBAI) rush into their Friday classes. They clamor onto wooden stools and sit attentively, waiting for their teacher’s next instructions. The classroom is standard; colorful ABC posters adorn the walls, and fuzzy rugs decorate the floor. The only difference: their teacher is a high-school student.
Taking advantage of their Friday advisory period, select Stratford and SBAI high school students have started helping lead interest-based clubs for elementary schoolers. These clubs encompass a diverse array of specialties, with clubs including 3D Printing, Medical School, Theater, Lego Robotics, Impact of a Dragon and the Film Making Club.
These specialized classes aim to expose young students to potential careers, using high schoolers as direct examples of these passions.
“This provides an opportunity for the younger students to see where their growing interests can take them,” SBAI Elementary teacher Ashlee Wilson said. “The SBAI counselor assigns each talented high school student a club based on their interests, skills and expertise. This adds another authentic layer to the enrichment we provide to our SBAI students.”
SBAI senior Yousif Al-Jadir helps run the Medical School Club at the local elementary school, which he feels especially connected to as he plans to major in Biology.
“My favorite part of volunteering is getting to interact positively with the kids: getting to know them and helping them learn stuff that I want to study in school,” Al-Jadir said. “Volunteering at [SBAI Elementary] also allows me to work with my friends to make a difference in my community, which I think is invaluable.”
High schoolers are not the only ones benefiting from volunteering. Elementary school teachers are eager to have more helping hands in the classroom.
“Having additional mentors in the classroom allows the teacher to plan and implement more rigorous content and engaging activities,” math teacher Julie Sirianni said. “With more adults in the room to field questions, guide the students through the activities, and provide insight, there is more room for expansion and growth with the content and curriculum.”
SBAI’s elementary teachers are impressed by the dedication and talent of the high school students. Sirianni recounts a particularly admirable moment when a high schooler guided students through a challenge in the Lego Robotics Club.
“Rather than jumping in and taking over it herself, this mentor [guided] the students through a difficult decision hands-free and without any tears from the younger dragons!” Sirianni said.
Sirianni believes that this new wave of high school mentorship is vital for the young academics.
“As a teacher, your goal is to give your students enough guidance to know right from wrong, yet enough freedom to allow them to pave their way and learn from their mistakes,” Sirianni said. “These younger dragons will follow in the footsteps of their mentors and constantly try to live up to the legacy that the older students have established. Having successful, strong mentors for our younger [students] will have a lasting impact on their success!”
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