Student Mentorship at Mishawaka
School City of Mishawaka is one of the many local school systems that place ninth graders in high school rather than middle school. The inclusion of the freshman class in Mishawaka High School is met with a mixture of positive and negative feedback from students. The lack of a clear public opinion regarding ninth graders as a part of the high school causes a need for an examination of the pros and cons of freshmen receiving an education with students as many as three years older.
There has long been debate over whether ninth graders should be a part of high school or middle school. While it is apparent in many cases that freshmen lack the maturity that many of their older high school classmates possess, it can be argued that allowing them to be a part of high school gives them the tools to mature and grow to their full potential.
MHS students above grade nine often have many complaints to share about freshmen. It is common to hear students express their frustration about the behavior of freshmen in school, especially in the hallways. Camryn Long, a senior at MHS, described her view of the freshman class. “They are very hyper and they like to scream for no reason. It’s kind of annoying. It…stresses me out and gives me anxiety. People are just too crazy.”
While these annoyances demonstrate the distraction that freshmen pose to others in high school, it can be argued that the positives of placing freshmen with students in grades eleven through twelve outweigh the downsides. High school is a place that allows ninth graders to learn how to act appropriately in professional environments and form mutually beneficial bonds with upperclassmen. Long, who is a four-year member of the Mishawaka High School Cross Country team, offered her perspective on the relationships between underclassmen and upperclassmen. She reflected, “They helped by giving me advice, and they motivated me to do better and were good role models in school and cross country and track, and they just brought a lot of positivity, especially when I needed it.” Long was greatly influenced by past upperclassmen during her first few years on the team. She further remembered, “They shared their experiences and were always there for me. It was nice having people that understood what I was going through because they went through that too.”
Now that Long is an upperclassman herself, she has become a mentor to younger runners on the team. One of these underclassmen, Koryn Flick, shared her view on her relationships with upperclassmen. “Having upperclassmen mentors has really positively affected my high school experience. Upperclassmen kind of show you the ropes…It makes me want to be like them when I become an upperclassman. I want to follow in their footsteps when they do graduate.” Flick, who is a sophomore on the cross country team and in the Mishawaka High School Marching Band, elaborated on the effects that juniors and seniors have on underclassmen by commenting on the maturity that older role models demonstrate for freshmen and sophomores. She detailed that upperclassmen on the cross country team must “teach the younger people how to act and what the coaches expect” as well as “overall how to act in high school.”
While the relationships between members of the cross country team demonstrate connections based on leadership and mentorship, they also contain another level of emotional connection between the runners. Long recalled her feelings about her past upperclassmen friends when it came time for them to graduate, “I was sad, but realized that it’s a part of life, and I’m glad that I had them in my life, but I’m also happy they could go follow their dreams and do what makes them happy.”
Flick also shared her thoughts on the upcoming graduation of her senior mentors. “It’s sad that they will graduate, but it’s good to…move on and have new experiences and go to college. I do plan to keep in touch with some of the upperclassmen…”
Long summarized her hopes for underclassmen by sharing that she wanted them to know that, “They aren’t alone and it’s really not as scary as they think.”
Friendships between underclassmen and upperclassmen reach farther than athletic teams at MHS. Flick shared, “I think that upperclassmen friends do make the experience of high school overall a lot better because they…know…what it was like in the past and they can give you good advice about that.”
With careful examination of the influence that upperclassmen have on students in lower grades, it becomes evident that having older students as role models is a necessary part of the development of young high schoolers. Allowing freshmen to associate themselves with students in grades ten through twelve allows them to mature and gain confidence. In addition, the bonds formed between upperclassmen and underclassmen are beneficial for both parties. Upperclassmen receive feelings of worth and purpose by helping younger students, while underclassmen become more comfortable in new environments and are given the opportunity to reach their full potential when given mentorship by older students.