Freshman Mentor Program reflects upon advisory experience

Four days a week, a bell rings in the middle of 4th, 5th and 6th period. Depending on the period, either a large number of students suddenly spill into the lunch rooms and heighten the noise levels, or students retreat in a mass exodus, leaving the tables empty and quiet.

Most often, these students are coming from or going to advisory, a class that every Stevenson Freshman attends for half of their lunch period. Considering the loss of 20 minutes during which they could be munching, studying or talking to friends, many students can think back to a time when they questioned the true purpose of advisory.

According to Zara Dittman, Freshmen Mentor Program (FMP) sponsor, the purpose is to provide a safe and successful transition to high school for every student. Advisory allows for this transition in multiple ways. One way is through the upperclassman, known as FMPs, that are assigned to specific advisories for an entire year to help the freshmen navigate through the high school experience.

“Anytime people go through change, it benefits them to have someone help them who has been there before,” Dittman said.

The FMPs serve not only as mentors, but also as friends to the freshmen, Jesse Kesner ’15, FMP Public Relations Director said. The goal of the FMPs is to form bonds with the freshmen and help them branch out so they can try new things.

A common complaint among freshman regarding advisory is its length, as it lasts the entire year. Sasha Pinchuk ’18 believes advisory should be shortened.

“Once you’re a few weeks in, there is nowhere for [the FMPs] to guide you,” said Pinchuk.

However, advisory is more than just guidance, Kesner said. Having a full year of advisory allows the freshmen to form closer friendships with their FMPs as well as with other freshmen in their advisory class.

In her advisory class, Sammi Berebitsky ’18 values the tips and guidance her FMPs have already given her this year. Berebitsky said that her FMPs have helped make her the transition to high school not seem so scary.

“I feel like advisory brought me closer to new people,” Berebitsky said.

Another advantage of a full year advisory is the introductions that freshmen get to their counselors, deans and social workers, Dittman said. In many other schools, freshmen have no reason to go see their counselor until later in their high school career. Through advisory, Stevenson freshmen get this exposure much earlier because counselors stop by each advisory weekly.

While freshmen do value the important information they receive from advisory, some freshmen do not enjoy other aspects of advisory, such as the games they have to play. Pinchuk said these games make her feel slightly juvenile.

“If they were asking us what we want to do then it would not be as boring,” Pinchuk said.

On the other hand, other freshmen appreciate the activities of FMP and see advisory as a positive experience through which they can build great relationships.

In order to develop these bonds, Berebitsky’s advisory class has cookie parties, plays various games and even participated in the Color Run together as a class. The class also has its own group chat so that everyone is able to talk to each other, Berebitsky said.

Responding to recent feedback to the program, FMP is taking steps this year to create a more enjoyable and helpful experience for freshmen in advisory, Kesner said. For example, in his advisory class, Kesner had each of the freshmen write down their top ten interests and then he went and found three clubs for each of them that he thought they would enjoy.

FMP is also trying to foster school unity through advisory, Kesner said. Varsity athletes from the various sports teams are coming into advisories this year to announce upcoming games, and the FMPs announce all upcoming events. Also to increase this idea of unity, the FMPs hosted a Freshman BBQ Bash before a football game. Even with terrible weather, about 175 freshmen attended, showing that the unity efforts are working, Kesner said.

Ultimately, the goal of advisory is to make freshmen feel like they are a part of the SHS community.

“We want you here,” Dittman said. “We are glad you are here. You are one of us now. We are all Patriots.”