UHS implemented its innovative Mentoring Program in the Fall of 2012, when the Class of 2016 entered ninth grade. Today, every student in the school has a mentor. Sometimes described as "augmented advising," modeled on coaching relationships, the mentoring program aims to promote growth and help students sustain excellence throughout their time at UHS and beyond.
The goals of our mentoring program are as follows:
- To create an environment in which every student is connected, engaged, and fully known, allowing each individual to thrive at UHS.
- To intentionally and systematically support all students in meeting the challenges of the academic program they have chosen.
- To ensure that each student graduates with well-developed capacities for self-awareness, self-care, compassion for others, and citizenship—in college and beyond.
As a school where “adults believe in the promise of every student,” we believe that students thrive when they are able to integrate the layers of learning that they experience on a daily basis both in and out of the classroom. Extensive research about adolescent development and cognitive neuroscience reveal that learning is optimized in a context of a caring and supportive relationship. Our mentoring program seeks to integrate the academic and co-curricular experiences to build metacognition, such as time management, organization skills, and how to study, as well as deepen each student’s self-awareness about relating to others and caring for one’s self. Student growth is witnessed through the lens of seven core competencies: integrity, connection, community, self-care, self-awareness, and scholarship.
Ninth-grade mentors receive a single course release from the regular teaching load to give their mentees individualized attention and support during the critical first year. After the ninth-grade year, students maintain a coaching relationship with their mentor, receiving unparalleled support while continuing to grow, thrive, and exercise their own problem-solving and decision-making skills as young adults. Students stay with the same cluster of 14 or 15 students through their entire time at UHS.
Individually, mentors work with students to review academic progress, set goals, discuss study strategies, brainstorm solutions to problems of all kind, and conduct program planning. When appropriate, the mentor works with the dean of students, the dean of academics, the learning specialist, and other specialists to provide students in need with more comprehensive support. The mentor is intended to be the single and central hub for a metaphorical wheel of support for each student, a person who knows the student in exhaustive detail. The adult mentors for a grade work as a team, with a mentor coach of their own providing support and feedback. We believe mentors are only able to provide support to students to the extent that they themselves are supported. This web of support extends to include all of the deans, so that the mentor coaches themselves also receive feedback and guidance from their own coaches.
NUTS AND BOLTS:
During the ninth-grade year, mentors see their students several times each week, including at an academic/study-skill-focused group session on Mondays known as M&M, a connection/recharge-focused group session on Fridays known as Cluster, and during Human Development period(s) most week. In later years, mentors and students meet each Friday for Cluster as a group, but also meet regularly on a more informal, individual basis. Based in these interactions, the mentor guides each student to make sense of his or her experience by taking time to reflect and plan appropriately for the opportunities and challenges inherent to being a teenager at a school like UHS. Additionally, particularly in 9th grade, mentors are in frequent communication with parents/guardians about what their child is seeing at school and will be soliciting feedback about their progress.
While the core of the mentoring program through all four years of high school is connection, support, and coaching, we have developed a set of themes for each year that correspond to the differing developmental stage and expectations each year.
Ninth Grade: belonging, connecting, study habits, school culture
Tenth Grade: self-awareness, metacognition, resilience, choosing
Eleventh Grade: identity, big ideas, finding your voice
Twelfth Grade: responsibility, self-care, "purpose larger than the self”
Cluster activities and 1-on-1 mentoring and advising meetings are structured around these themes.