Near-peer mentoring–bringing together older and younger students rather than pairing students with adult mentors–is getting a lot of attention these days. Washington High School in Chicago’s East Side neighborhood is now offering its students a near-peer mentoring opportunity through a new after school club, Rooted.
Senior Marcos Muñoz (left) and freshman Kenneth Johnson are members. “When I was kid, I always wanted attention,” Johnson says. “I just need that one person who can push me.”
While Rooted does pair older and younger students for some one-to-one interaction, there’s a powerful group component, too. “We had a couple of sessions where we broke down and told each other everything,” says Kenneth.
Marcos appreciates Rooted for allowing him to connects with students at a deeper level than in academic classes and other activities. “I can go and talk to people who have the same interests but [I] never knew it before.”
Kenneth appreciates being connected with older students who are involved in activities he might not otherwise have paid attention. “I wouldn’t be going to see the water polo team without [Marcos],” he says. Marcos plans to come to one of Kenneth’s wrestling matches, too.
Both young men say they enjoy the chance to get together with like-minded students and reflect on their experiences. “School is so fast-paced, you really don’t take the time to think,” says Kenneth. At Rooted, group meetings begin with time to reflect on the events of the past week and think about the successes and challenges they have faced.
Marcos says he often looks forward to sharing his successes with fellow Rooted members and appreciates the chance to be there for younger guys like Kenneth. “I see myself in his shoes,” he says. “I never had a person who could push me to get where I wanted to go. It’s satisfying to be that person for someone else.”
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Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. Between 1998 and 2006 she was an associate editor at Catalyst Chicago, the go-to magazine covering Chicago’s public schools. There, her reporting won awards from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the International Reading Association and the Society for Professional Journalists. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of an elementary student in the Chicago Public Schools. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.