Making a Difference Through Mentorship
To encourage staff to make a positive impact on students’ lives throughout the school year, Milton Hershey School students created a mentorship program. The goal? To help establish a strong support system, and share knowledge and interests to become better leaders.
Now in its fourth year, more than 250 high school students signed up to be paired with a staff member.
“This speaks volumes of our students,” said Michelle Weber, MHS Student Government Association Coordinator. “They’re truly saying to us that they want to make a connection, they want a difference maker, and they want to have a relationship with an adult to help them through the bad and good days—and the days where they simply need someone other than their friends.”
Mentorship is a powerful tool that can help students of all ages feel confident, supported, and motivated. Learn more about the benefits of mentorship, and see how MHS students and staff benefit from the program.
Students can reconnect with past teachers
When students move from middle to high school, they often hope to keep in touch with their past teachers—but don’t have the medium to do so. With the MHS mentorship program, high school students may be paired with their former teachers. This can be an exciting relationship full of goal-setting, guidance, and reminiscing.
What students and staff think:
- “I was paired with one of my former students, which was great because we already had a connection from being in the classroom together for her eighth-grade year. We talked about her academic and behavioral goals as well as how things were going in the student home. It was a really positive and meaningful experience to be able to follow up with students long after they moved out of our classrooms!” –Megan Fasick, an MHS middle school math teacher
- “I value mentors who make me laugh and smile but also give me tough love when I need it. My mentor has inspired me to be who I am and not to change for anyone.” –Natasha, an MHS junior
Staff and students can share values such as respect and positivity
Respect and compassion can be difficult concepts to understand, but when staff displays these values, students can experience the benefits of healthy relationships firsthand. For students who come from challenging backgrounds, these connections have the power to transform their lives and show them how to invest in relationships.
What staff think:
- “My relationship [with my mentee] is strong not only because we have similar interests, but because we have invested in it. We have built on the school’s Sacred Values of mutual respect, integrity, positive spirit, and commitment. The mentoring program provides an opportunity to build healthy relationships with students that can last a lifetime.” –Renee Forry, MHS Home Life Training Specialist
- “My goal was to make sure [my mentee] knew I was there for her and that she could count on me for support. I was amazed at how driven she is at being the best she can be. I never knew I would have so much in common with a student in regards to our philosophy for learning and commitment to the school’s mission. This experience opened my eyes to how driven our students are and how sharing our stories with each other can help both of us become better members of our community.” –Tiera Reinert, an MHS fifth-grade math teacher
Students build confidence when interacting with adults
Many students may not be used to trusting or communicating with adults. As mentors establish healthy modes of communication and show unwavering support, students become more confident and optimistic about the future.
What students think:
- “Before, when an adult I didn’t know talked to me, I would either have an attitude or shy away from them. Because of my mentor just talking with me and listening to my frustrations and problems, I am now able to approach adults in a calm, respectful manner. I can say with confidence that I trust my mentor. She always encourages me during my worst times and celebrates with me during my best.” –Ashley, an MHS senior
- “In the beginning, I thought I wasn’t actually going to make a bond with an adult and that it would be really weird. After just a few times hanging out with my mentor, I had so much trust with her. Any time I was upset, [I knew] I could talk to her. We did fun things together on my birthday, but it was just nice to be able to trust her.” –Jaycee, an MHS sophomore
Staff can help students learn how to solve problems
When students have an adult they can trust, they have the tools and support they need to solve problems, establish future goals, and create positive memories.
What students and staff think:
- “My wife and I attended some of her sporting events to support her. We had a difficult time getting her to communicate with us, but once we established a mode of communication, it was quite meaningful. She talked to us about things going on with her family and home life. It became less about me being an administrator at the school, but someone she could talk to about things going on in her life. We connected with her and let her know she’s part of our family.” —Brandon Mason, MHS Home Life Administrator
- “[My mentor] has been there for me through my freshman year and all of my home life problems. I am very thankful for the mentorship program because my life would be much duller without the light she brings into my life.” –Piper, an MHS sophomore
Thanks to the mentorship program, MHS students have a trusted support system to guide them during high school and post-graduation. By building connections with students, staff also feel empowered and connected to the school’s mission of making a difference in the lives of children.
“The difference is made by the adults in the program,” Weber said. “The most important thing they need to give is their time, and the beauty of this program is that it’s different for every single pair. Every small moment counts in the life of our students.”