In response, HCHS launched a mentoring program, “Bridge Groups,” with the opening of the 2021-22 school year. Mentoring groups are about the size of a standard classroom or smaller, to allow for more personal dialogue among groups. Teachers will meet with specific students either because the students chose that teacher to be their mentor and/or they already had a relationship or because of the “focus” of that group. Examples of teachers’ focus are food, bowling, agriculture, Harry Potter, conspiracy theories, etc.
Bridge Groups will meet weekly to conduct check-ins, do team-building activities and work on a literacy or Project-Based Learning activity. The goals of the literacy activity are to cultivate a love and enthusiasm for learning and reading, empower students and staff to identify themselves as readers, bridge the gap between school and real-world literacy, kindle creative thinking and insightful conversations, and expose students to new places and ideas through their reading materials.
The vision of the mentoring program is to create connections between students and staff through fostering relationships centered around literacy, conversations and activities to enhance a student’s sense of belonging at school. It also creates the opportunity for every student to connect with at least one adult in the building in a meaningful way. In their first session, students and teachers were given the opportunity to exchange introductions and begin to get to know each other. The second week of school, Bridge Groups met for an afternoon of discussion, door decorating and “Wildcat Games.”
“Mentoring groups were also created to help students feel a greater sense of belonging to the Henry County High School communities,” Grimes said. “We want our students to leave HCHS feeling like they are known, valued and loved – which they truly are.”
Sageser said that at HCHS, every student should have a sense of place in the school and the community.
“Our goal is to build bridges between students and staff that will create meaningful and supportive relationships. We want to ensure that every student has a trusted adult that can provide mentoring to them,” Sageser said. “Our staff believes that the most important thing we do is build relationships with students. With that in mind, our staff is simply pumped about our mentoring program. This is an exciting opportunity to move in a positive direction. We all feel this is a limitless opportunity for our school.”
In fact, Sageser doesn’t even consider what his staff is doing with mentoring to be a “program.”
“This is more than a program. This is who we are,” Sageser said. “Building a sense of place will grow each of us. WE ARE HC!”