A group of Plainville High School students and fifth graders across the school district have come together through a unique partnership that features peer mentoring, conversation, and fun. The Helping Our Peers Excel (H.O.P.E.) program began in 2005 as an idea developed by Plainville Community Schools Psychologist Suzanne Schweitzer. At that time, Schweitzer created the program to match Plainville High School Student Liaison Committee members as mentors for fifth grade students at Linden Street School. Since that time, the program has expanded to include fifth graders at all three Plainville elementary schools and has become a huge success.
The program model is a half-day workshop where the elementary students spend time in small groups led by their high school mentors. The mentors participate in skits that include topics such as tolerance, peer pressure, drug addiction/substance abuse and bullying. The program also includes components such as team building activities and line dancing. "The power of the program is the connections that the fifth grade students make with the high school mentors. Everything from watching the skits, sharing experiences and playing games together. The highlight is at the conclusion of the day, during the pizza party, where all the students sign each other's H.O.P.E. shirts," said Schweitzer.
Each year, after all of the elementary schools have had the H.O.P.E. program workshop, there is a district-wide parent evening showcase. At the showcase, parents are given a glimpse into what issues their children are facing today. The high school and elementary students put on a performance to educate parents about what the program has taught them. The H.O.P.E. program is an excellent way for the Plainville students to support each other and students have expressed their enjoyment as participants. In a letter to her mentor one fifth grader said, "Thank you for the fun day. You made it cool to learn and have fun at the same time." Another student remarked, "Maybe when I am in high school, I can be a member of your committee so I can be a mentor."
According to Schweitzer, her "HOPE" for the future is to continue to strengthen the collaboration between the high school and elementary school students.
"It is wonderful to see our high school students serving as positive role models to their younger peers through the H.O.P.E. program," stated Dr. Kathleen Binkowski, Superintendent of Schools.
-Posted on April 4, 2008 at 11:35 AM
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