Growing up is hard, and when kids transition from middle school to high school, it can be scary. Studies have shown that kids who do poorly in their first semester of ninth grade are more likely to drop out and the most important factor of academic achievement is the level of connection a freshman feels to their high school. So, what is the solution?
Battle Ground High School is doing something to make sure their freshman succeed with the “STRIPES” program. “Students to Reach Incoming Peers Experiencing School is a transition and orientation peer mentorship program that challenges students in grades 10-12 to mentor incoming freshman.” Senior Shaylene Talkington, executive STRIPES mentor, said “We’re here to help our peers succeed. Our job is to set up freshman from the very beginning with the knowledge and tools to grow throughout high school. It might not sound like much, but even small gestures from juniors and seniors like smiling and saying hello to underclassmen in the hallway can help struggling students feel like they belong.”
Upper-class STRIPES mentors spend some time over summer with BGHS teachers and community leaders learning how to guide the incoming freshman when school starts. They “learn about classroom and conflict management, how to increase and foster school connectedness, and social/emotional development and academic performance issues.”
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Freshman Hayden Sanders said, “Being in a new school that’s much larger and busier than the middle school can make it easy to feel lost or confused sometimes. STRIPES mentors help you get to know your classmates right away so it’s easier to ask for help when you need it.”
During the spring semester, STRIPES mentors work with eighth graders. They conduct the eighth-grade orientation as well as host the open house event for the eighth-grade parents.
The STRIPES program has been in existence for 19 years and over one thousand students have been trained to be peer leaders, advocates, and educators. These mentors have also conducted after-school peer tutoring programs, put together teacher appreciation activities, visit local teen centers to mentor, and organize social events. These activities vary each year based on the goals of the student leadership, however, the mission is always the same, “for current students to take an active role in increasing school connectedness and reducing both the failure and drop-out rates of their peers.”
One student who’s experienced with STRIPES helped set him in on the path to success is Oliver Root. Oliver is now a math teacher at Prairie High School. “High school can be a scary time for students, but peer mentorship programs like STRIPES help encourage kids to have an open mind and be honest about their struggles,” said Root. “It’s much more authentic when students hear from their own peers about opportunities and the right way to go about things.”
STRIPES started as a leadership class. When staff and funding were no longer available, the program transitioned to an ASB activity and is managed through the counseling department to this day. Dawn Pack, BGHS school counselor, and program coordinator said, “It has been my absolute honor to have spent a decade co-advising and leading this incredible peer mentorship program. It is humbling to see the amazing work that is being done by some of the best and brightest young minds that Battle Ground has to offer, and the STRIPES program has held an immeasurable positive impact on the Battle Ground community.”