Marc Garneau’s grey walls look their greyest during the first days of school as a new Grade 9 student. As a student who had attended relatively small schools until ninth grade, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I stepped through the doors of Entrance 9 four years ago. Sometimes I wish I had had a student mentor when I started here – someone who’d already experienced most of high school. It would have been a welcoming and fun addition to the school tours and orientation presentations held for my parents and me.

Wednesday’s Grade 9 barbecue is a recent addition to the tours and orientation seminars for new Grade 9 students. The event seeks to bridge a gap between the MGCI senior mentors and their Grade 9 mentees. Although a lack of organization resulted in food distribution shortages and little actual communication between the attending students, the new mentorship program marks a great first step taken by the administration to help Grade 9’s make a smooth transition into Garneau.

Ms. Goldenberg is working together with senior students JiaRui Pu and Lola Wazir to co-ordinate an in-school peer mentoring and academic tutoring program. Once setup is complete, senior students will be stationed in classrooms to provide support for their younger schoolmates one-on-one. With an already-overcrowded school and dozens of students sitting idle in their study hall periods, this program is an effective way to keep senior students engaged in their school community and to create a better sense of unity among the student population.

A large student body with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds has made implementing such a program at Marc Garneau particularly challenging. It has been a monumental undertaking on the part of Ms. Goldenberg and her student leaders. Although teachers haven’t all been able to work the program into their courses, many student mentors and mentees enjoy the pilot program. The new school year brings confusion and the ongoing need for adjustment from both teachers and their students, who are  unsure of what kind of support they require. As with any new introduction, future directions and how things run will be revised and changed with time.

If all goes well, maybe next year Garneau’s grey walls won’t look quite so grey.