SGA buddy program introduces freshmen to high school

Freshmen+meet+upperclassmen%2C+staff+and+their+own+peers+through+a+virtual+buddy+program.

Graphic by Claire Chen

Freshmen meet upperclassmen, staff and their own peers through a virtual buddy program.

Angelina Xu, Features Writer

Ever since September, incoming freshmen have been thrown into the unfamiliar environment known as high school. For many, the transition has been a difficult and continuous process that can feel isolating at times, but with the right support, freshmen can feel less alone throughout it.

To tackle this issue, the SGA Executive Board and administrators wanted to have freshmen learn from people who used to be in their shoes — upperclassmen. The Freshmen Buddy program assigns upperclassmen mentors with freshmen mentees and then encourages them to meet at least once every two weeks with each other. These sessions do not follow any set curriculum, as the program is more focused on giving the freshman an opportunity to ask any questions they believe their senior mentor could help with. “[Topics covered can] be about the school, about academics, about extracurriculars, about sports and about the current situation and remote learning,” senior Irene Kim, who is an RM Ambassador as a part of the SGA Executive Board, said during a video call. 

In addition, the program hosts monthly group meetings for mentees to build connections outside of their mentor and mentee pair. Their first group meeting was on October 14, where mentors and mentees were introduced to each other. “[The meetings are] basically like one day out of the month where all the upperclassmen and all the freshmen come into a Zoom room, and we do fun activities and have fun discussing stuff,” Kim said. Although specifics haven’t been planned out yet, they’re currently outlining future pastimes for the group meetings. 

For many freshmen, this program has made them feel better connected with the school’s culture and more confident in their own academic capabilities. They are free to talk about their worries and stressors stemming from the transition from middle to high school. “We just wanted to make sure that there was someone there for freshmen to talk about their concerns with high school, making new friends or transitioning from middle school-based education to a more sophisticated-based education,” Kim said.

However, not only is this program benefiting freshmen, but it is also providing many of the participating upperclassmen with the chance to be a mentor for the first time. To guide them through the process, the RM Ambassadors created a mentor guide and held a mentor training session. The virtual training encompassed the expectations, responsibilities and steps to facilitating valuable conversations with their mentees. 

At the beginning of the year, the RM Ambassadors hosted a virtual freshmen orientation to replace the regular in-person freshmen orientation. The original day of freshmen “getting familiar” with the building, staff and upperclassmen was replaced by four large Zoom sessions where the administration and the RM Ambassadors went through presentations and breakout rooms together. Freshmen learned about the building in addition to getting to know the administrators, staff members and upperclassmen. Even though it was virtual, students could feel some semblance of the original activities. 

We just wanted to make sure that there was someone there for freshmen to talk about their concerns with high school, making new friends or transitioning from middle school-based education to a more sophisticated-based education.”

— Irene Kim

After the success of the virtual freshmen orientation, the SGA RM Ambassadors sought to create a longer lasting impact on freshmen. “We didn’t want it to be a one time thing in a year where we introduced the community to the freshmen and then that was it. We wanted to ensure that there was continued support for freshmen and a continued community connection between RM and the class of 2024,” Kim said. 

Throughout the planning stage, the four RM Ambassadors worked together with the ninth grade administrator Ms. Veena Roberson to thoroughly plan out their vision of the program. “We brainstormed different ideas of how it would work, what the Freshmen Buddy program would look like and what we wanted freshmen to get out of the program,” Kim said. 

Another key aspect of the designing process was choosing mentors that were “sufficient role models” for the freshmen mentees. A key method for checking the mentors was having an exchange of views and hearing them describe their motivations for helping the freshmen. “We didn’t want any freshmen to feel like their mentors were just doing this for college credit or just doing this to put on their resume. We wanted to make sure there was a genuine connection between the freshmen and the mentors and that the mentors were being responsible,” Kim said. 

Although they are still trying to figure out the best structure and communication program, Kim feels that the RM Ambassadors have done a great job in building the foundation of the program. In Kim’s experience, the adjustment from middle to high school is not instantaneous, which makes having a strong yearlong program all the more essential. “We just want to make sure that the program goes strong throughout the whole year and we want to ensure that freshmen are continuously connected to the community during remote learning,” Kim said.