Everyone can connect with this moment: it is your first day of high school and you walk through the front door. You enter into a jungle of kids with your schedule in hand. You look down and you have no idea where your first class is. It feels like the entire lobby is closing in on you. All you need is for someone to point you in the right direction. Then all by yourself, you journey up the stairs, and start the expedition that is high school.

Pictured from left to right, Students to Students president Kaitlyn Conte, Mrs. Levin, and freshman participants Kyle Getty and Hannah Johnson. (Photo by Hayes Linzer)
Pictured from left to right, Students to Students president Kaitlyn Conte, Mrs. Levin, and freshman participants Kyle Getty and Hannah Johnson. (Photo by Hayes Linzer)

Now, thankfully, some upcoming freshman won’t have to take this journey all alone. The new Students to Students mentoring program, which takes anxious, brand new freshmen and pairs them with some of the high school’s best and brightest seniors, should help ease the transition.

The program, created this past year by Mrs. Levin, one of Andover High’s social workers, allows certain freshmen to connect with senior mentors that can help guide them through their first year of high school. She got the idea from her husband, who works for the Peabody public schools. He couldn’t stop raving about how well the program worked in Peabody, so she decided to try implementing it in Andover.

Levin started this year with a pilot program. She had West Middle School teachers recommend to her students that had expressed some anxiety about moving on to the high school, so she could ask them if they would be interested the program. Ultimately, she had 23 students sign up for the pilot run of the program. Two of these students were Kyle Getty and Hannah Johnson.

Getty had received a letter asking him if he would be interested in taking part in the program. He was worried about being able to find his way around the high school, and not sure how he would manage his time with the increased workload. He was reluctant at first about joining, but was relieved once some of the mentors took him on a tour of the school last August. Previously at times he had struggled as a student, but after listening to some of the mentors, his grades rapidly improved. He said, “They told me to spend an extra five minutes on homework in each subject every night, and now I am a straight-A student.”

Johnson also was skeptical about joining the program. She did not want to meet once a week with mentors during lunchtime, but after struggling in Physical Science she was grateful. Since all the mentors had taken the class before, they were able to help her bring her grade up. She eventually did enjoy going to the lunches with the mentors. She said, “I liked how you could tell them anything, and they wouldn’t judge you.”

Levin hopes to expand the program even more in future years. She is planning on taking 30 kids for the program next year, and including all of the middle schools. She is also pleased with the number of students next year who are interested in becoming a mentor. Current mentor and president of Students to Students Kaitlyn Conte is currently vetting the candidates for next year. She wants to make sure they will help the upcoming freshmen. She thinks this is a great program and wishes she had been able to take part in a program like this when she was a freshman.

By Hayes Linzer