Mentoring gives students HOPE

Mentoring programs like HOPE can turn failure into success by connecting kids with caring adults.

Graphic by Jessica Van Winkle

Mentoring programs like HOPE can turn failure into success by connecting kids with caring adults.

“We have HOPE for you.”

These five simple words can make a world of difference for a student. HOPE, which stands for Helping Others Pursue Excellence, is a mentoring program currently in place at RB.

“We connect one student with one staff member who is willing and has time to participate as a volunteer mentor with a student who is right now not doing so well academically. It’s for the academic side of a student’s life,” Assistant Principal John Passarella said.

The program first came to RB when Interim Principal Kristin Smetana  interviewed for her position as an assistant principal. HOPE was running in her former workplace, the Hinsdale school district,  and she expressed interest in integrating it into RB while simultaneously improving it in a way that would most benefit the students. The program has since taken off at RB and has had a positive influence on the academic lives of students.

Students get paired with a staff member mentor who is in place to work with that student and help them live up to their full potential. These pairings depend on a variety of factors.

“Some students already had relationships with teachers and we wanted to capitalize on that relationship and help it to flourish and have those teachers who already had an individual relationship really help that student grow even more with somebody they already felt comfortable with,” Smetana said.  “We look at whether a student has a study hall when the teacher has an off period. Sometimes it is completely random, but we do look at personalities.”

HOPE is not a tutoring program. It is a way to guide students in the right direction and improve their executive functioning skills. Executive functioning includes an array of skills all centered around time management and organization.  Mentors provide accountability for the student and help them realize the endless opportunities at RB has to offer.

“I’m not here to tutor my mentees, that’s not my role. My role is to hear about what they’re doing to create success and hold them accountable to that in a way that’s positive,” Passarella said.

While parents are often concerned with their child’s school work and can push them to achieve, teenagers are notorious for not listening to their parents and getting aggravated with what is perceived as nagging.  HOPE provides a solution to this issue..

“Even though we are saying the same message as their parents, it comes across differently coming from us. It’s a way to help get their parents off their back,” Smetana said.

School doesn’t come easily for everyone, and that is perfectly normal. This program provides much needed hope for those students who need it. Overall it has been a great success, but Passarella has a different idea about where this success lies.

“The program isn’t what the success is. It’s the student. The program has the structure set in place, but it’s the student realizing those successes. It’s the one on one. It’s the student realizing ‘I can be a success,'” he said.