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Smith MS Shark Connection Mentoring Program builds relationships and celebrates success!

National Mentoring Month: Shark Connection making a difference at Smith

January 27, 2017

Smith Middle School students were selected by administration, guidance counselors and teachers early in the school year to participate in their very own mentoring program, Shark Connection.  There were 63 students chosen from grades, 6, 7, and 8.  

According to Science instructor Elizabeth Hickey, who is deeply involved in the Shark Connection program, “Each mentor selects a mentee from the list of names, and so begins a relationship-building process that gives the student another person on campus with whom they can share their thoughts, their frustrations, their successes and their dreams." 

The program is funded by the school's first dance of the year. Hickey says, “Smith’s PTSA has had a huge part in making the Shark Connection successful by selling tickets for the first dance of the year for four days prior to the dance, every day during all three lunches. Their school psychologist, Dr. Diehl is the DJ at the dance.  Proceeds from the dance fuel the monthly activities for our mentee/mentor program.” 

Mentors and mentees celebrate and network formally once a month. They also find time to see each other informally during the week, whether the student just drops by their mentor’s office or classroom, or they see each other in passing and share quick words of encouragement and support.

Susan Roberts, a veteran school counselor, is mentoring Brian A. this year.  Brian is 12 years old, in the 7th grade, and is having a much better year than his 6th grade experience.  Brian says that Mrs. Roberts “helps me to realize things I might never have realized,” and he thinks the program is a good one.  Brian says, ‘The Shark Connection is good for the school because it allows the teachers [and staff] to get to know students.”  In turn, Roberts says that Brian helps her with technology issues that come up in her office, and she tries to make sure that he is being set up to be successful academically.  

Alejandro B., a 7th grader participating in the program, says “I never did my work in 6th grade.”  However, partly due to the efforts of his mentor Albert Fernandez, a Language Arts instructor, he feels he is doing much better this year. Alejandro says, “I get to express my feelings comfortably, about home and school issues.”  Mr. Fernandez likes the program because he is able to “focus closely on the issues with Alejandro, which include graduating on time and career goals.” 

Reina G. 8th grade, has multiple mentors at Smith, including Deputy Arthur, the School Resource Officer (SRO) and Dr. Ashley Diehl, School Psychologist. “It gives you somebody to talk to that you can trust,” said Reina.  When she needs to talk, she uses the “Wish to See Form” and finds one of her mentors, and this has helped her have a much better school year than the last one.

Each mentor interviewed for this story strongly believes that it is rewarding and positive to get to interact and build relationships with students on a one-to-one basis.  Cynchia Starling, the Band Director, summed it up nicely by stating,  “The more you connect with students, the more the school feels like a family.”  Her mentee, Augie R., a 6th grader, agrees.  “Kids should be able to connect more closely with their teachers.” 

By taking part in their mentoring program, both students and adults are finding a better way to establish “connections” at Smith Middle School. 

For more information about the program, visit Smith Middle School online or email the Principal Joann Johnson at joann.johnson@sdhc.k12.fl.us.

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