Freshmen Seminar and Senior Mentor

Freshmen Seminar and Senior Mentor

The perfect book ends to high school.
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Going into high school, almost every freshman has some anxiety. For many this means the fear of making friends, or even fear of the upperclassmen. It’s common in movies to see the bigger seniors bullying the freshmen. I was lucky enough to go to a high school that created a program that made these fears obsolete.

A year prior to my entrance into high school, Sandwich High School rolled out a new class that freshmen could take called “Freshmen Seminar." This course runs concurrently with another class entitled “Senior Mentor." The freshmen seminar class is centered around the idea of preparing the freshmen for the next four years in high school. There is a group of seniors placed in this class and they serve the role of senior mentors.

The freshmen are divided into a few groups that are referred to as pods and the seniors divide themselves amongst the pods. The seniors work on essential skills that they will need in high school and life. These lessons included public speaking, homework/study skills, tying a tie, and many other useful tips. I was lucky enough to be a part of this program as both a freshman and a senior mentor.

Going into my first day of freshmen year, I was incredibly nervous. Many of my closest friends had gone off to private or charter high schools. My first class that day was Freshmen Seminar. I knew the minute I walked into the classroom that it would be one of my favorite classes because of the high energy and the seniors' warm welcomes. My class was small and when we divided into groups it was just two other students and I, along with our three mentors.

We began our first class with a public speaking exercise that focused on eye contact. Our teacher, Mr. Dumas, lined us all up in two lines facing each other and made us stare into each other's eyes and then we worked our way down the line. It was beyond awkward; however, it got us all out of our shells and we began to bond as a class. This made a huge difference for me because it gave me a group of people that I was comfortable with and that I could call my friends.

We played a ton of games throughout the semester and became overly competitive with one another. I dreaded public speaking days, but I did see myself improving in presentations as the semester progressed.The worst part of the class was that at the time, each student had it for only a month and then they switched to another class. My biggest take away as a freshman was how much the seniors care about us freshmen. They went out of their way to say hello in the hallways and they were always there when we needed them. This made me want to apply to be a mentor.

Fast forward three years and I walked into that same classroom on the first day of school, but this time was different because I was a senior mentor. The class itself had also changed. Instead of having it for about a month of the semester, the freshmen had it all semester, every other day. The seniors had it every day with two different groups of freshmen. Instead of entering the room as a timid freshman, I was comfortable and beyond excited to see my fellow mentors.

The first day of the class sets the mood for the rest of the semester and it is up to the senior mentors to create a positive environment. As the seniors laughed and talked with Mr. Dumas, the freshmen filed in. The class began with introductions and we then moved into our lines for the eye contact game. Everyone was laughing and it was evident that the freshmen’s discomfort began to fade after a few rounds.

We got into our pods and at that time none of us realized how close we would get. The semester moved on and we did similar activities from my freshmen year; however, I got to see the freshmen improve. I loved helping my younger peers with homework and bonding with them. I liked the class as a freshman; however, I loved it as a senior.

As a freshman, I understood the impact the class had on the freshmen; however, I did not realize the impact it had on the seniors. At the end of the semester, many of us seniors were beyond sad that the class was over. During our final class we all circled up and reflected on the semester. One of the seniors of course had to toss on some solemn music and then Mr. Dumas asked us to share our favorite moments.

My favorite moment during the class was when we were doing a team building project with our pods and all of the seniors were told to step back and we saw all of the freshmen working together and completing the challenge. It was amazing to see our shy freshmen from the first day of the semester to that moment. The freshmen talked about how it impacted them and the seniors sat their proud of the people that they had become.

This class teaches the seniors how to be leaders and gives them the opportunity to help the freshmen class. The circle ended with tears and hugs. Many of the mentors explained at our debriefing that they found that this class made them look at how the acted in their lives. They felt as if they had to carry themselves in a way that the freshmen could look up to. I left this class having formed relationships with both the freshmen and the other seniors. Many of the seniors were from different friend groups and had different interests. A few of the seniors had never even been in a class with me. By the end of the class we were all friends and celebrated the end by going to breakfast with each other. As the freshmen filed out on that last day, the seniors circled up around the teacher’s lab bench, like we had done every morning for the past semester, and we ended our first semester of senior year.

This is the type of class that should be offered at many high schools because it creates a positive start to high school. You learn essential skills such as public speaking and those that choose to bookend their high school years by becoming a mentor, learn skills that colleges and employers look for. Mentors learn listening skills, as well as leadership. You have to be able to work through conflict and solve problems. You do not just leave the class with those skills, but with long lasting relationships with your pod. I have pictures of my pods hanging in my dorm and I am proud to see my freshmen from last year enjoying their sophomore year.

Click here to learn more about the class through the eyes of the freshmen, seniors, and administration of Sandwich High School.

Cover Image Credit: Sandwich High School

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

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Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

Cover Image Credit: http://crashingintolove.tumblr.com/post/62246881826/pieffysessanta-tumblr-com

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When Was The Last Time You Were Alive?

If you can't post it for everyone to see, was it truly a remarkable moment?

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Being alive is an essentially effortless act.

In theory, as long as you're eating food, drinking water, and performing as a human, assuming no major health conditions, most of us are living.

The tragedy I see most often is so very few of us are alive.

Now, I'm not suggesting you drop your textbooks and sprint up a mountain, or go broke trying to find yourself in new activities and events.

That's the illusion pressed onto so many of us. Social Media, more importantly, FOMO, has taught us that in order to truly be alive we need to make sure we travel far and wide, eat gourmet and unique food, and essentially, immerse ourselves in something phenomenal. However, regardless of what you do- don't do it without an audience and the value of your experience will only be justified by the number of likes you accrue on your #bestvacation ever because you #lovenature. With your back to the camera and wispy hair flowing in the beach air, you hit all of your angles, how else will you prove that you're alive to Instagram?

I fell for this too. I spent so much of my life constantly trying to get to the next phase life had to offer. High school was fun, but I was counting the days until graduation. Growing up in a small hometown wasn't awful, but I had sticky note calendars until my next vacation. And day in and day out, events would happen all around me that were just too "normal." I wasn't alive, but I was living.

Setting your soul on fire and truly living is so much more difficult than you could ever expect, but not because you have to drain savings and take along a buddy to snap all the perfect moments.

Choosing to be alive is realizing how important it is to be in this moment or phase in life and accepting it for all its worth. Instead of racing to the finish line or trying to sprint into your next season of assumed happiness, take time to notice all the beautiful and small things that make this moment so important. There is so much life to be found in simple moments.

Semesters are ending, we are all racing to summer. Perhaps in the process, take note of the routine cafeteria worker that constantly smiles at you and says hello. Or perhaps, giggle at the fact that in just a few short weeks that bus driver you see every single morning won't be apart of your morning routine.

The farther I get from what used to be my normal, the more I miss that season of life. I haven't lived in my hometown since I was eighteen, but I miss the simplicity that came with my drives to high school listening to Kanye West and the coziness of a small town opening its doors to start a new day. I never stopped to be alive in those moments, I was just simply living.

Wherever your next phase of life might be, it will always be there. You will always have something else coming. However, once this moment is gone. It's truly gone. Don't waste beautiful views trying to capture just the right picture for Instagram, take in the moment.

Living and experiencing life can be as simple as trusting that you're exactly where you need to be in life. Cherish each moment as you're in it. The next moment is coming whether you're ready or not.

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