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Students work with each other

Students develop their communication skills through one-on-one activities in the new mentoring program.

As the school year comes to a close, a group of 8th graders at Goff Middle School are getting a head start on their high school careers. Seven select students have been paired with Columbia upperclassmen as part of a pilot program facilitated by the New York State Mentoring Program.

Students from both schools have met a handful of times this spring to get to know each other through games and activities.

The goal, said Brad DiPietro from the NYS Mentoring Program, is to ease the transition into high school.

“Our main purpose is to increase attendance for the mentees,” Mr. DiPietro said. “Part of that is the transition from 8th grade to 9th grade and helping to make that as smooth as possible.”

It is free for Columbia and Goff to participate in the program, which included mentor training for the Columbia students and for facilitators from the NYS Mentoring Program to attend each meeting.

The mentors were selected by Columbia Principal John Sawchuk and his leadership team.

“We have great student role models here who can reach back from their own experiences to assist other students who may be struggling,” Mr. Sawchuk said. “Activities like this strengthen our positive culture.”

Students work with each otherAt the final meeting of the school year last week, mentors and mentees worked together on communication and team skills. They took turns explaining a picture comprised of shapes to their partner who, without looking at the picture, had to draw it from verbal instructions.

After each round, Mr. DiPietro walked around the room comparing the sample picture to what the students created, giving feedback on how they worked together.

“I think it’s really fun,” said Emma Meyer ’17. “It’s great to get to know each other.”

Her partner during the exercise was 8th grader Nicholas Navarro. He’s both excited and anxious about going to Columbia next year, but said it’s comforting to know a few current students before he even gets there.

“I love this program,” he said.