Stories to share:

Shortly before we closed in March, a student on the yearbook staff talked to me about doing a page on Be the One Mentoring. We had arranged for him to interview and photograph some student mentor pairs the following week for his story. Once we closed, that was no longer possible. I was able to contact a few willing students and mentors that he had to call and interview over the phone. I heard from the mentors who were interviewed how much they enjoyed it, and it seemed to have a positive impact on the yearbook student writer. One mentor asked him, “Do you have a mentor?” His response: “No, I don’t, but after hearing about all these relationships, I think I want one!”

Mentors have gone to great lengths to reach out and connect with students despite the COVID shutdown, even finding ways to meet in person on occasion. One mentor has a relationship with the student’s family as she already knew them before the match. Upon hearing that the mentee was lonely and sad during the closure, we arranged an opportunity to meet in public and observe social distancing requirements. Both parties greatly enjoyed connecting and talking in person and sent me a photo of their socially distanced 6 feet apart air hug.

Matches: 49

Senior mentees who graduated: 5
During our closure, 3 mentees moved out of district and 2 more transferred to the Impact program

Wrap Up/Closure: During a normal school year, June would be the time we focus on closure and celebrate the end of the year. Mentors and students have a final meeting to say good-bye, write thank you cards, and share pictures together. Our remote school setting made this nearly impossible in many cases. Some pairs were able to stay connected through email and zoom meetings; other relationships abruptly ended with little contact after March and had no closure.

Contact after March:

Half (50%) of mentor student pairs stayed connected at some level with two-way communication throughout the closure (mail, email, text, zoom meetings, or information passed through the coordinator).

Another 30% of pairs had limited contact, one contact during that time, or one-way contact where the mentor reached out (mail, email, text, or zoom) and a handful of single meetings or item dropped off or mailed to the student’s home.

The final 20% of matches had no contact: mentor did not contact student and/or student did not respond to any outreach attempts by the coordinator. Many of these students did not have internet and were not engaged with school.

Looking Ahead to Next Year: At this point, it is very difficult to speculate what will be happening in the fall. The majority of mentor and mentee pairs who plan to be in district next fall want to stay together. A handful of mentors are undecided or want to wait and see what circumstances will be.

I expect that we will have significant challenges maintaining some relationships due to health concerns, change of work/family status, and level of comfort with restrictions. We also know that social emotional needs of students are expected to be greater than ever. Students most at risk are frequently the hardest to contact and lack internet and/or cell phones.

 Specific things to consider: Must be answered at a district administration level

  • Will district limit volunteers and visitors in the building?
  • Can Mentors be deemed essential volunteers?
  • Will reducing the number of courses students have at LHS make it more difficult to schedule mentoring during the school day?
  • Will we need to have more off-campus and outside of school options available?
  • Will the district consider allowing means of communication previously prohibited to allow supportive relationships to continue?

BTO Mentoring End of Year Surveys (2019-20)

Lynden High School

Summary of Results for Mentees

This year we could not do end of the year interviews, so we tried to have students complete an online survey instead. Not all students received or returned the survey. Just over 50% completed the questions.

Question: What things did you enjoy about your mentor this year?

Responses included: talking, they listened, hanging out, having a great friend, being able to rant, talking to someone who is not my teacher or parent, having fun, letting everything out, having a positive person, having fun, playing games, doing art.

Quotes:

“ I enjoyed being able to build trust with someone outside my family. I felt supported and encouraged by our conversations.” Sophomore girl

 “I enjoyed playing games and writing my book with him.” Sophomore boy

 “He likes rock music like me and helped me learn to grow and deal with emotional stuff. He cared about my well being.” Freshman boy

 “There are so many things I loved about my mentor. We had so many challenges together and she never left my side. She helped me from beginning to end. I enjoyed being with her in general, and her attitude is something I admire because she is always so positive and pushes me toward success when I feel down and want to give up.” Sophomore girl

 “I liked to be able to talk about my future plans as well as things I am going through right now.” Junior girl

Would you like to continue with your mentor next year?

Yes: 90%
No: 1 student
Undecided: 1 student
3 students moved out of state

How did COVID affect your life? most were negative or neutral responses—stuck at home, bored, couldn’t see friends, isolated, stressful, missed sports, missed school.

Quotes:

“It was horrible to not be able to go to school. The online platform was really hard for me.” Sophomore girl

“I couldn’t play soccer and it cancelled all my tournaments. I couldn’t see family members because they were a little sick. We had to wait a long time to get food.” Sophomore girl

“It is the worst thing in my whole life. I can’t see my mentor and I have been so frustrated because I love school. I’m so sad.” Sophomore girl

“It has made me not able to see friends and I have to do school online which really sucks.” Freshman boy

“It really affected how well I was doing in school. Being home is very frustrating.” Junior girl

Connections with Mentor during Covid:

92% of respondents connected somehow–Many responses included mail, email, zoom meetings, gifts mailed or dropped off.

However, many who didn’t complete the surveys also didn’t connect with their mentors, so this is not really representative of the whole group.

If we cannot be in school in person next fall, would you still want to connect with your mentor?

Yes = 80% of respondents
Maybe, depending on circumstances = 20%
No one answered No

Ways you would like to connect if we are not in school? Students could mark multiple options. Responses in order of preference:

Text: 75%
Face to face (outside of school) 60%
Phone calls: 50%
Email: 35%
Zoom: 35%
Mail letters: 20%
No contact until in person at school: 10%

Note the desire to text, meet in person outside of school, and talk by phone are the highest responses—none are allowed under our current structure. I believe that face to face may have been higher—3 students who moved out of state and want to keep in touch with mentors did not mark face to face as an option on their surveys.

Email and Zoom are relatively low by comparison—these are the only options we could offer during covid

Mentor Survey Responses Summary

Mentor Survey Responses: 38 LHS Mentors turned in the survey and responded to very similar questions.

What did you enjoy about mentoring this year?

Reponses included: connecting, listening, encouraging, helping with schoolwork, helping with college applications, earning trust, bonding, just being there, seeing them mature, growing our friendship, making a difference, getting to know someone new, playing games, seeing student trust me, playing sports, being able to give back, hanging out, laughing.

Notable Quotes:

“I have enjoyed observing his maturation and increasing self-confidence. Arriving 3 years ago as a transfer student and without friends or acquaintances, he has found his niche, developed friendships, assumed some leadership roles, and greatly improved his academic scores.”

“ I enjoyed talking with her about life and her home situation. She is a very responsible young woman and we had great conversations about life. I feel like I was just getting to know her when we closed school. I’m hoping we can continue next year!”

“I enjoyed seeing her integrate into high school and witnessing a lot of maturity. Gone was the drama of middle school friendships, replaced by a dedication to get good grades.”

“I enjoyed seeing a growth in our relationship of trust, sharing personal thoughts, smiles, and being able to know how to encourage my mentee was very rewarding.”

“Beginning to get to know him was a learning experience for me. He is quiet and reserved. Lots going on in his head. I enjoyed learning about his life a little at a time.”

Would you like to continue meeting with your student next year?

Yes = 85%
Not sure, talk to me in the fall = 5%

Stepping down = 10% (these all reflect mentors of students who graduated or moved this year)

If in school mentoring is not possible at the beginning of the year, would you want to connect with your student outside of school?

Yes = 89%
Possibly, depending on circumstances = 11%

How would you like to connect outside of school? Can select multiple answers.

Responses in order of preference:

Text =79%
Face to face outside of school =79%
Phone calls = 42%
Zoom =42%
Writing letters by mail = 31%
No contact until at school = .05%

Note both mentors and mentees chose text and face to face outside of school for their top preferences if school is not in session. I believe this reflects the deep desire for real connection—email and zoom feels lacking. District Administrative policy would have to change to allow these opportunities.