Strong student response to Coronado call for mentors

       Convinced of the need to enhance the transitioning of freshmen into his high school, Coronado Principal David Engstrom put out a call last spring to students in this year's grades 10-12 who might want to be “mentors” in such a program.
       “We needed about 35, so I was hoping we'd have 50 to 60 apply,” he recalled, then paused for effect. “We had 180.”
       He used the word “incredible” to describe such a hearty affirmation. “it says, 'We love Coronado, and we want to help.' ”
       From a functional standpoint, the number of applications allowed the school to be “highly selective” in making mentor choices, even limiting them to 11th and 12th graders (120 of the applicants).
       According to Engstrom, they're not necessarily the school's top athletes or scholars - they're “those kinds of kids who make all the right choices and just want to help out.”
       The transition effort kicked off Aug. 17 by having the first day of school be for freshmen only (plus their individual student mentors, whom they met for the first time).
       The program will be ongoing, through a scheduling change this year in which freshmen will gather in assigned home rooms for a half-hour each Thursday. Called “Cougar Period,” it will give freshmen a chance to connect with an adult at the school (the homeroom teacher), meet with their mentors, learn about clubs or organizations and get academic help, if needed.
       The idea was worked out by Engstrom with parents on the school's accountability committee. Funding for the staff and student-mentor training was made available by District 11, he said.
       Time for the period means that all other classes that day will be reduced by 4 ½ minutes each. But the principal believes that's OK if it helps the new students become successful. The main concern is that too many students drop out between freshman and senior years - not just at Coronado, but high schools in general - and by helping them “make connections” from the outset they will be more likely to stay in school, he explained.

Westside Pioneer article