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Seniors Mentor Hilltoppers

Connor Pignatello ’19 Features Editor
Senior mentors may be best known for their pre-advisor group Dunkin Donuts runs, but the most important qualities they bring to those early morning meetings are their experience and advice.
They form relationships with their mentees, answer questions their teachers may not be able to answer, and create a link not only between the older students on campus and the younger ones, but between an adult advisor and their teenage students.

Students apply to be senior mentors in the spring of their junior year, and candidates are chosen by a committee made up of the Senior Class Head Advisor, the Freshmen Class Head Advisor, and
the Junior School Head Advisors. This decision is based on “what [the applicants] know, what they write, and the leadership that we’ve seen in them as they’ve grown”, explains Class of 2019 Head Advisor and Dean of Students Lars Jorgensen.

Senior mentors bring many qualities to their advisor groups—helping younger students transition to Hopkins, giving advice from a student perspective and being a supportive leader for mentees to look up to. In the fall, senior mentors play a crucial role in the transition of new students in both seventh and ninth grade. Gigi Fulginiti ’19, a ninth grade senior mentor, said, “Freshman are shy and not yet comfortable enough with their teachers or other adults to ask for support, so having an older student to go to makes the process less daunting.” Senior mentors create this connection through fostering a more casual and fun environment when they come to advisor group meetings. Jocelyn Garrity, Head Advisor to the Class of 2024, said that when senior mentors come to advisor group, “the focus often shifts from doing seventh grade business type stuff to more fun things, like games, or just talking and relaxing.”

Garrity continued, “It’s really nice to have a connection to the older kids, because [seventh graders] are isolated in a lot of ways in the junior school and so it’s nice to have that connection to the older kids.” Younger students may be able to relate more to their senior mentor than their advisor, explains Jorgensen, “It’s really powerful and impactful for seventh graders and ninth graders to have a leader
amongst the seniors on campus, taking interest in them, trying to get to know them, and being a resource. We have lots of adults here, but there’s nothing like an older student that can act as a mentor. [Senior mentors] have insight and advice that carries a little bit more credibility, perhaps, than adults do.” Sarvin Bhagwagar ’24 repeated this sentiment: “You get to have a friend that you can talk to anytime. No offense to any adult advisors, but if you have a senior mentor you are able to relate to your mentor because they are also a kid.”

Senior mentors bring a distinctive perspective to an advisor group, said Fulginiti, “Combined with the advisor, [senior mentors] can tackle any problem or dish out any advice. While the advisor might have a technical outlook, a senior has a practical one based on experience.”

Separate from their contributions to advisor group, senior mentors also look to build relationships with their mentees. “We ask that they meet one on one to check in, perhaps have lunch with them,” said Jorgensen, “There’s a greater role there, but it’s not as structured, so the [senior mentor] has to have the maturity to do more, but that varies from mentor to mentor. If the mentor goes to see a game or a play that their [mentee] is in, that can have a huge impact on their mentee.”

Another great opportunity to build relationships between mentors and mentees is class trips, which the seniors are invited to go on since they do not have a class trip of their own. This year, senior mentors tagged along with the seventh grade at the Durham fair and with the ninth grade at the Big E. “It was important to have senior mentors at the fair because they helped show us what to do and the right thing to do [with] generosity and kindness,” said Luca Angelini ’24.

In addition to forming relationships with younger kids, senior mentors can also encourage behavior set by community expectations. “Faculty members aren’t always around, and if a senior comes up to a younger kid and says ‘Hey, you just said something really unkind,’ that can have a big impact,” said Jorgensen.

When applying, juniors may choose to mentor seventh grade, ninth grade, or both, although the mentor process does not differ much between the two grades. It all depends on what age the student would
like to work with, explained Garrity, “Some older students may not be interested in a twelve year old and feel like they can relate better to a ninth grader. The seventh graders are just open in a way to being goofy that you might not get with a ninth grader, especially when half are new and half are not. The new ones might feel a little bit more self-conscious, but the seventh graders are all new, so they’re putting themselves out there, to get to know each other and make friends.” Experience in the Junior School is also a factor in deciding which grade to assign seniors to, says Jorgensen, “Those who were in seventh and eighth grade have a higher likelihood of getting seventh grade if they want to. It’s not a deal breaker, but having experience in the junior school helps.”

The most substantial piece of advice for juniors interested in applying is to put “good thought” into the application, said Garrity. “The application is a really big part of it, because we may not know you as a junior. I may not, as Seventh Grade Head Advisor, know all the kids applying, so I really do read the applications carefully, and putting good thought and effort into the application is important.” The committee has experimented with various deadlines, however, they all seem to conflict with the busy spring schedule of the junior class. “We have tried having the application due different times,” said Garrity, “last year it was due after exams, but a couple of years ago we did it really early, because we were trying to pick the kids earlier so they wouldn’t be wondering over the summer. I personally liked that model, but that was a really busy time for the kids in junior year to do an application in the middle of the spring.”

Last year, the deadline was the day after exams, but many juniors left the application until the last day and either forgot about it, hastily completed it, or didn’t do it at all because they were drained from exams. Theodore Tellides ’19 recalled, “Right after exams I traveled to London to visit my brother who is studying there. A day into vacation I suddenly remembered about the application and logged onto my email only to find out that the deadline had passed a few hours prior. It was an L.” Although the application is due at a busy time, Garrity adds that the committee is “totally flexible” and is willing to
work with the schedules of second-term juniors.
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