IGNITE: Mentor program inspires leadership and school spirit

Freshman Chloe Carvaino comtemplates how to guide her partner, and teacher, Nich Anderson, through a maze. Anderson can
Freshman Chloe Carvaino comtemplates how to guide her partner, and teacher, Nich Anderson, through a maze. Anderson can't look and Carvaino can't use any language in existance, she must use only sounds and made up words they agreed on previously. Mentor Tonya Berry watches and guides them through the exercise, which is geared to help students deal with the unexpected twists and turns of high school life, and helps them rely on others as well as themselves.
— image credit: Kyra Low/The Mirror

At Todd Beamer High School, there is a change in the school environment.

This year marks the first that the school has participated in the IGNITE program. The program is geared toward helping freshmen transition into the high school. Results have been seen all around as the school becomes a more united campus.

IGNITE is now in all four high schools in the district.

"The district was looking for a support system," Coach Katie O'Brian said. "Ninth-graders historically have trouble adjusting. (IGNITE) eases the transition."

Incoming seniors were chosen to spend a good chunk of the summer training, to either be execs or mentors. The execs oversee mentors and help with the training.

"It's been really smooth," said Riley Germais, an exec. "Definitely kids have taken pride in the school. They feel like they own the school."

The program has also helped unite students from all four of Todd Beamer's academies, exec Ramona Canto said.

The program involves the mentors meeting several times a year with freshmen. Each month there is a new activity for them. The mentors are also available for tutoring if the students need it.

Right away, the school saw results from the program. Traditionally, the Summer Success camp had a small turnout, for example.

"The Summer Success camp in 2008 had dismally low numbers," Germais said. "They sat in the corners; there wasn't the energy and it was very boring."

This year was a complete turnaround, as they had about four times the number of students.

The first few sessions of the program were geared toward involving the students in the school and creating a school community, which the execs say has more than happened.

"It's changed in a big way," Canto said. "It's boosted up the involvement. People are going to football games, dressing up. I love that we have more spirit. It makes the games more fun."

"Before it was isolated with the academies," exec Conner Lamoureux said. "Now we have a connection with them."

Principal Liz Drake has seen the difference too. She gets e-mails from parents at other schools after sporting events, complimenting the Todd Beamer High School's spirit and the amount of leadership the students are taking.

"This is my second year here," she said. "The first year was trying to get the students to lead. This year students are leading. My goal now is to widen that involvement."

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