Young students are learning about community service and about character from some Oakdale High School student mentors involved in their after school program.
Several of Magnolia Elementary School’s Aspire after school program students took a walking field trip on a minimum day on March 21 with their high school mentors to Tranquility Living in Oakdale. The students and a handful of Tranquility Living residents dyed Easter eggs, decorated cookies, and colored drawings for room art for the residents.
Oakdale High School seniors McKenna Cramer, Michael Adian, Louie Brichetto, Lindsay Combs, Cameron Aprile, Larry Hunt, and Alexa McConnell led their fifth and sixth grade charges, helping them with the projects and interacting with the residents. The students and residents had fun sharing in the Easter traditions and also chatting about their lives and plans for the future. The objective for the young students for the day was to learn something from someone from another generation. It was also to provide an activity for the senior residents to do and to have fun while doing it.
“It is high school students out providing a community service,” said Magnolia after school program manager Annette Kimball. “My Aspire kids are watching these high schoolers. I feel like these high school students are really doing what I asked.”
She noted how they directed the younger students and helped them converse with the senior residents by asking questions and sharing their own stories.
“The high school students really stepped up to the plate. It’s good for them to see they can be an influence for good in someone else’s life,” Kimball said.
This is just one example of the activities that the older students do with the younger ones, as the high school mentors visit the elementary school campus weekly. There are four other high school students who also participate in mentoring the younger students.
“They really are a fabulous group and we’re very lucky to have them,” Kimball said of the mentors, noting that Magnolia’s Aspire program is the only one in the district to have the high school mentors at this point.
Magnolia teacher Robert Fyke also mentioned the positive impact the older students are making.
“It’s really sweet because a lot of the mentors are former Magnolia students themselves and here they are, six years later, giving back to their old school,” he said.
Kimball reported that the high school mentors hold a class every Monday with the fifth and sixth graders in the Aspire program. The first half-hour consists of a class presentation and discussion, and then the second half-hour is an outside activity.
“(It’s a) great interaction between our students and model high school students,” she added.
McKenna Cramer, an OHS leadership student, facilitates the program. She explained that she and her high school peers give lessons to the younger students on topics such as bullying or self-esteem. They also cover other character topics that include academic themes such as managing time, doing well on school work, and thinking ahead about college. Then, when the lesson is over, they do outside activities that promote teamwork and being active by playing team sports with the younger students.
“They really look to us as role models,” Cramer said. “I think it’s good for them, we teach them about life lessons.”
Cramer and Kimball worked collaboratively on subjects to cover for the 20 to 24 Magnolia Aspire fifth and sixth graders before the mentoring program began. Kimball identified needs for kids in the program; one was to develop self-esteem, others were how to treat their friends and make friendships, do well in school, develop study skills, and also to look ahead and begin planning for their futures now.
The OHS students work the mentoring in with their other extracurricular activities. The mentors represent a cross section of the OHS student body to include athletes, academic decathlon team members, cheerleaders, and leadership students.
Kimball said that four to five years ago, Cramer’s older brother, Trevor, started the program and received a volunteer of year award from the county. After a hiatus in the program, the younger Cramer picked up the mentoring program and got it going again.