Englewood High School sophomores get support from mentors

Big Brothers Big Sisters aims to prepare low-income areas for life after high school

Posted 11/26/18

On a fall evening at Englewood High School, dozens sat together in the cafeteria to eat and talk — but half of them weren't high schoolers. Junetta Campbell, a sophomore at EHS, was among the …

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Englewood High School sophomores get support from mentors

Big Brothers Big Sisters aims to prepare low-income areas for life after high school

Posted

On a fall evening at Englewood High School, dozens sat together in the cafeteria to eat and talk — but half of them weren't high schoolers.

Junetta Campbell, a sophomore at EHS, was among the students who came to the event Nov. 14 to eat pizza and meet with mentors paired with them through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado's mentor2.0 program.

“I'm looking forward to growing as a person and getting to know more people because I don't really branch out to meet new people,” Campbell said. She wants to go to college to be a veterinarian.

The nonprofit's program gives about 140 sophomores at EHS one unique, college-educated mentor each to give the social-emotional skills and support that the nonprofit says is needed for graduating high school and being prepared for higher education and the workforce. Big Brothers Big Sisters' program focuses on high schoolers in low-income communities.

EHS is the fourth mentor2.0 school in Colorado, according to a news release. The program launched at Sheridan High School in 2015 and Atlas Preparatory in 2016, and Big Brothers Big Sisters is adding the GALS school and EHS this school year, the release said.

Campbell's mentor, Katie Wolters, a 42-year-old from Denver, has only been a mentor for about two months, but she's enthusiastic about getting to know Campbell.

“As a former teacher, I miss having interactions with students” and hearing different perspectives, Wolters said.

So far, Wolters and Campbell, 15, have talked about their likes, dislikes, what they disagree on and what they have in common — activities, food and pets got much attention, Wolters said.

In groups at the event, the students and mentors discussed intersectionality, the concept of how certain parts of their identities — race or gender, for example — impact how they interact with the world. In seminar class at EHS, students worked on getting to know their mentors, Campbell said. A Google Doc, shared over the internet, helped them share facts about themselves, Wolters said.

“Hopefully, I can be that neutral pair of ears that's not a parent or teacher — a no-risk person to talk to,” Campbell said. “A thought partner to help get ready for life after high school.”

“I'm just really interested in being able to see Junetta's growth through high school,” said Wolters, who plans to keep in contact. “And be part of someone's really cool story. I feel honored.”

Diego Rios, 16, said he hopes his mentor's wisdom will help him in the future with college and grades. He plans to go to a four-year college — he's thinking Stanford — to be a music artist or producer. His mentor, Joseph Ramharack, is an internal medicine doctor at nearby Porter Adventist Hospital, and this is his first time mentoring someone assigned to him.

As someone who grew up from humble beginnings, Ramharack, a 35-year-old from Denver, said he realizes the importance of having a mentor.

He hopes to “also learn about myself, and just be able to help,” Ramharack said. “And for him to teach me stuff. We're all chasing youth, right?”

Through mentor2.0, the nonprofit matches students with an adult mentor from the start of 10th grade through the first year of post-secondary education or training, the news release said. The program blends online and in-person mentoring and is provided by the nonprofit in partnership with iMentor, which has mentored high school students in New York City since 1999, the release said.

Ryan West, EHS principal, said in the release that the program's weekly workshops during the school day and monthly face-to-face meetings at night are meaningful to the students and adults alike.

“Our kids need programming like this more than ever, genuine connections with an adult role model that they can trust and grow with,” West said.

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