Several of Garneau’s Grade 9 classes have an extra pair of helping hands thanks to JiaRui Pu and Lola Wazir’s new found initiative MGCI Mentors. The program was created to help ease the transition into high school for new students. These girls worked together to form an organization where Grade 11 and 12 students spend time every week working in Grade 9 classes. The relationships that mentors form go beyond the classroom as they do far more than help students understand math equations. Mentors are teaching students to communicate and open up with one another; ultimately they want students to feel comfortable.

And they’ve achieved just that. When speaking to students who have been mentored, all of them see the benefits of the program and the majority of them said that that it’s easier talking to mentors than their teachers. Some even said that when they become seniors, they want to be mentors too.

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Mentors meet every week to give updates and discuss techniques. Photo: Sabrina Bertsch

This program is still working to overcome their biggest obstacle: convincing teachers to allow mentors into their classrooms. Many teachers were hesitant about this pilot program but now mentors can be found in many Grade 9 classes. JiaRui said that “the teachers who have mentors assigned to their classrooms know the immense benefits of the program as they witness it every single day.”

Ms. Tam, the program’s staff advisor, loves having mentors in her class. Mentors allow students to get one-on-one attention when needed without taking time away from the entire class.  Students don’t have to stay after school or come early, help is right there when they need it. Mentors also mean that a student doesn’t have to ask questions in front of the entire class, the environment becomes more comfortable for students and teachers. When asked about why she supports the program, she said that “everyone has felt that in Grade 9, and maybe in every grade, that they need an extra friend or sense of community. I want everyone to feel welcome in our school because it’s scary coming into a new school without knowing anyone. It would be great for Grade 9s to have a relationship with older students.”

MGCI Mentors is not only helping Grade 9 students but it is giving seniors leadership opportunities and the chance to become role models. Kashfi Manji, a Grade 12 student and mentor in Ms. Tam’s class, said that he got involved in the program because he felt the same way when he was in Grade 9.  He said “even though I came from across the street, there was a struggle. There’s only so much you can take from a teacher, but when you have extra help around you it helps you succeed. If I had that help, it would have been amazing.”

This program is not without problems but the majority of them have been overcome due to the efforts of teachers and mentors. Ms. Tam commented: “It’s a huge undertaking because so many people are involved and I’m proud to see everyone in Garneau pull together to support the students.”

Students who are interested in participating in the program should email [email protected] with their name, grade, and spare period.