Mentoring program gives Sioux City freshmen allies ‘like an older sibling’
High school can be a pretty intimidating place when you’re an incoming freshman.
“On the one hand, you have more freedom and more of a say when you’re in high school,” West High School ninth-grader Tylee Noshavanh said.
“But you’re also in a bigger school with more kids,” fellow freshman Joshiah Saravia added.
“With more temptations,” classmate Zakaina Johnson said.
“So many more temptations,” Tylee acknowledged with a sigh.
Luckily, the Sioux City Community School District has a mentoring program that pairs incoming freshmen with older students.
Think of it as the “buddy system,” only in high school.
“I remember what it was like going from middle school to high school,” Juan Oropezam, a senior, said. “You think you have school figured out. Then you get thrown for a loop.”
“You’re in a new place with new people and new rules,” senior Saige Kolbe said. “It can be a scary time.”
While both Saige and Juan are now mentors for a younger group of West High kids, they both started as “mentees.”
“We got so much out of the mentoring program that we knew we wanted to continue,” Saige said.
Meeting with freshmen on a regular basis, mentors tutor, check homework and walk younger kids through challenging scenarios like bullying, gang activity and sexual assault.
“Kids are always told to talk to an adult when there’s a problem,” senior Anna Kern explained. “Sometimes, that’s easier said than done.”
“Talking to a mentor is less intimidating,” she continued. “We’re more like an older sibling to the younger kids.”
“Plus we’ve been through a number of the scenarios ourselves,” Saige said.
So, what was the biggest fear of freshmen?
According to ninth-grader Taeler Nguyn, it’s finding your place at a new school.
“You have more choices in the classes you take,” he said. “But the classes are bigger and harder.”
“I know it,” Zakaina said. “In middle school, you’re still sort of led from class to class. In high school, you’re the one responsible for your own choices.”
And how do the freshmen feel now that the school year is almost over?
“Relieved,” Joshiah said. “Things weren’t as bad as we thought.”
“We build these expectations up in our brains,” Tylee said. “Then we realize, ‘hey, it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be.”
In fact, Tylee, Joshiah, Taeler and Zakaina have all signed up to become mentors for the incoming class of West High School freshman, beginning in the fall.
There, they’ll be joined by sophomore Ana Nimaja, who has also signed up for the program.
“I’m accustomed to being an ‘older sister’ for younger kids,” she said. “Having eight siblings at home has prepared me to become a mentor.”