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The Junior/Senior Mentor program has chosen nominees for next year

Mr.+Haddad+%28middle%29+with+his+mentors+Elena+Tapia+%28left%29+and+Emma+Weiland+%28right%29.+The+papers+they+are+holding+show+that+they+took+part+in+the+mentor+program.
Mr. Haddad (middle) with his mentors Elena Tapia (left) and Emma Weiland (right). The papers they are holding show that they took part in the mentor program.

Mr. Haddad (middle) with his mentors Elena Tapia (left) and Emma Weiland (right). The papers they are holding show that they took part in the mentor program.

Alaric Ortiz

Alaric Ortiz

Mr. Haddad (middle) with his mentors Elena Tapia (left) and Emma Weiland (right). The papers they are holding show that they took part in the mentor program.

Alaric Ortiz, Staff writer

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Mrs. Benes, sorting the certificates of participation for the workroom teachers and junior/senior mentors. Workroom teachers are also given a Hershey's chocolate bar.

Over 130 strong leaders in the Sophomore and Junior levels have been recognized and nominated by Richards staff to be Bulldog Mentors for next school year.

“We had over 130. There are usually twenty workrooms and we try to have three to four mentors per workroom. I try to keep that number around 80 mentors so that we can have three to four mentors per workroom. Unfortunately, the schedule doesn’t always work that way, because obviously a student’s schedule has to accommodate with to be able to spread everybody around, so sometimes there’s a workroom that might have two mentors, sometimes there’s a workroom that might have five,” School Counselor Mrs. Melanie Benes said.

Those that were nominated can continue by getting two recommendations from staff. Even if someone isn’t nominated, they can still try.

“First, students have to be recommended by a staff member and/or a current Bulldog Mentor. What’s put out there for staff members is: Can you identify students that have strong leadership skills, students that are dependable, students that have good attendance, and that have a positive influence in the school, whether that’s in an academic setting, or with their peers, or on the court, or on the stage? Students that have strong communication skills, students that would feel comfortable being the center of attention, students that are organized? Those kinds of qualities. I have accepted students that were not nominated. I met with a student, talked with the student, but they still would have to get at least two recommendations, so maybe they weren’t initially nominated, but as part of filling out the application to be a part of the program, they still need two staff members to give them a recommendation to say they would be good in that role,” Mrs. Benes said.

Mentors can and will be dropped, if necessary.

“If they just stop coming and participating, that’s usually the primary reason why someone is dropped. It could also be if someone gets into some disciplinary trouble, it depends on what it is, because again, these mentors are supposed to be modeling positive student behavior, and if someone were to get suspended for something pretty significant, then we might have to review that. It has not happened yet, thankfully, but that could be grounds for someone to be asked to leave the program, but usually when a mentor is dropped, it’s because he or she just stops coming or doesn’t come on a routine basis,” Mrs. Benes said.

However, drops aren’t just thrown around. The program is forgiving, and takes advantage of opportunities like this.

“A suspension does not mean an automatic drop. It would have to depend on the nature of the suspension. I have had a mentor in the past that was suspended for fighting, and how we handled that situation was that she talked to her workroom about that when she returned from her suspension, and said ‘I’m human, too, this was a bad decision, this is not how it should have been handled, I should have done it this way. I’ve learned from my mistake,’ and we tried to turn it into a learning experience for her, but also a learning experience from the freshmen in the workroom,” Mrs. Benes said.

Mentors have to attend the Summer Training in order to be a part of the program.

“It’s primarily a team-building leadership training. It allows the mentors to get to know each other better, and helps them identify what their leadership style is, and it helps those of us who work in the program observe personality types, what those leadership skills are to be able to pair people up appropriately based on their personality or their leadership style. To make it a better working team that way. It’s one day for a few hours,” Mrs. Benes said.

There is a misconception that Junior/Senior Leader is the same thing as Bulldog Mentor.

“The junior and senior leaders are students that are mentors in P.E. classes. So, they’re strictly working with the freshman and sophomore P.E. classes, helping the teacher there, and being a mentor in that program. The Bulldog Mentors are mentors strictly in freshman workrooms, and sometimes we have students that do both. Students can do both if they want to, but they are separate programs,” Mrs. Benes said.

People often mix those two up because the programs used to be the same name.

“I think back in the day that’s what they were called. In both programs, they were called senior leaders. So, whether they were in the P.E. classes or they were in the workrooms, they were considered senior leaders, and it was strictly a senior-only program. Last year was the first year we changed it to allow juniors to be in the program as well as seniors, and I think that just became the term around here. So, we’re trying to make that distinction between the two because they are two separate programs,” Mrs. Benes said.

Mentors are not chosen by their workroom teachers. All of it is assigned, but that works out well in the end.

“They are assigned at the beginning of the year, and they wind up doing very well. There’s good chemistry among the junior/senior leaders. Every year, I look forward to seeing groups to contribute to this awesome program,” Workroom Teacher Mr. Manuel Montes said.

Workrooms have certain required things to do, and mentors must be able to contribute to them.

“The required activities include addressing academics, academic support, how to keep an eye on their grades, how to communicate with their teachers, how to reach out for academic help and support. Secondly, I think it’s just as important, the social development and social topics. One, which is probably one of the more depressing ones, is bullying at this level. What to do, who to go to, just trying to provide them with options. We have programs in place if they experience any kind of bullying, or any other social issues or problems that they have,” Mr. Montes said.

Another requirement at the start of the year is bringing up what clubs the freshmen can join.

“That’s something we definitely push early into the program. We spend a day or two looking at the athletic opportunities, the activities that are featured through Richards, and we’ll watch videos and presentations from these various groups, and definitely try to drive that throughout the year: They should go through a high school experience, not just going to class and going home back and forth, but rather trying activities, sports, clubs, that even if they try and they don’t like it, at least they tried it. Then, they can move on to other activities. I think very few students at this school are involved in no club, sport, or activity,” Mr. Montes said.

At the end of the program, mentors and teachers are given an award.

“It means that I was part of a program that helps freshmen adjust to the high school experience, and hopefully in a positive way,” Mr. Montes said.

Workroom Teacher Mr. Haddad wants to be able to select which mentors are part of his workroom.

“If there’s a list that I could pick from, I wish I could actually pick the ones that I wanted. If it was someone that I knew, that I taught with or maybe had some type of interaction with in the past, it would be nice to work with that person versus someone I just met,” Mr. Haddad said.

Electives are also shown to the Freshmen in addition to clubs, which help out beyond high school.

“We actually advertise ROTC a lot, and that’s one of the things we have to do: Tell everyone about the clubs, the sports and activities we’re doing, and then the due dates of all the tryouts and such. I promote everything that is out there, because if you participated in clubs, not only is it fun, but it’s good for your resume for college, too,” Mr. Haddad said.

The freshman aspect of workrooms was kept because they needed guidance.

“We kept the freshman advisory program because we felt like they needed the most attention in terms of having a place to gain information about the high school process, and try to help make them that transition into high school as smooth as possible. A place where they can receive information, ask questions, meet new peers, because we have students that come from all different types of junior highs, so it’s coming not knowing anybody. Having a place where they could gather, gain information, hopefully make some friends, make some allies here at the school with upperclassmen and with staff members would be nice for them,” Mrs. Benes said.

Mrs. Benes explained what kinds of people were qualified to be a part of this program: What makes a good leader.

“I think someone who has some good leadership qualities… They would be someone that others can depend on. If that person is asked to do something, they can be followed through to do whatever task that was. I think a good leader is someone who is confident.  A leader can be someone who is on the front lines and vocal about whatever is going on, or a leader could be someone who is more in the background, maybe being organized and making sure that different tasks are being accomplished. Someone that is respected, that people look up to and admire. Someone that possesses those types of attributes,” Mrs. Benes said.

Read more about the students participating in the program here, showcasing the mentor in the making: Motaz Alzaghari.

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The Junior/Senior Mentor program has chosen nominees for next year