Like many other school-related events, programs and clubs this year, the monthly Freshman Mentoring Program (FMP) meetings have been unable to meet in-person due to COVID-19. Instead, the program has adjusted to host meetings virtually. The big question is whether this makes a difference in reaching the new freshmen with meetings no longer face to face.
During past years, the school would require all freshmen to gather in the auditorium and participate in the discussions during their history period. When SHS was hybrid during parts of the first semester this year, the meetings were held through Zoom meetings during the school day. The program was still held during history periods, except some students tuned in from home and other in-person students were in their history classrooms.
According to SHS counselor Cynthia Russell, the FMP program provides a framework for engaging ninth graders as they enter Solon High School. She explained how there are six sessions designed to maximize the competency to promote safety, to have students move from bystander to upstander, to promote a culture of inclusion, to make good choices and to manage stress. The program’s goal is to develop leadership skills in the freshman class and the students mentoring them.
“[FMP] is really student-led and the mentors take the lead,” Russell said. “I provide the support and coordinate the sessions in order to reach all the freshmen.”
When the freshmen go to the FMP Zoom meeting, they are in a large group that includes the mentors, the speakers and all the freshmen who have history during that specific period. Then, they are split up into smaller groups through the Breakout Room feature, where each room is assigned a mentor to talk about questions and thoughts.
According to SHS freshman Ariel Hsieh, the online meetings are still addressing important issues such as microaggressions and moving discussions along.
“The mentors lead the discussions in the Breakout Rooms,” Hsieh said. “I think this is helpful because otherwise [the freshmen] wouldn’t talk about the questions.”
According to SHS freshman Sydney Roseman, she and her fellow classmates were able to participate in the meeting’s discussions while she was in-person at the school. Students online would have class discussions about scenarios and questions when students online were pushed into Breakout Rooms.
“When asked about certain situations and what we would do, it was nice to hear how many of us would go and help another student instead of not doing anything,” Roseman said.
Despite the different circumstances of this school year, freshman mentors who have already gone through FMP and their freshman year of high school are still able to communicate with the freshmen about what they have gone through.
“I think it’s nice that the breakout rooms are led by a mentor or teacher,” Roseman said. “It is easier when someone older is talking from experience.”
With the virus amidst our daily lives, programs such as the high school’s FMP will continue to be held virtually if they are to continue. This change has come with a need to find new ways to engage the freshmen, and this has been found by providing ways to discuss as well as listen to others, even from an online platform. The effectiveness of the meetings will only increase with more and more experience with the whole virtual setup.