Students reaching students: These kids inspired their hs mentors to take action
When North Allegheny Senior High School students visit Grandview Elementary to mentor the kids, they notice some differences right away.
“Nothing was brand new; nothing was really that colorful,” said Julie. “Books were old and tattered. Things had pieces missing. When you see that, you’re sort of forced to compare. It’s a big disparity.”
Julie is president of the high school’s Interact Club, which leads the mentoring sessions. For her, it was eye-opening— but it was the similarities with the kids, not the differences, that stuck with her.
“They were just like me when I was little,” she said.
When asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, the kids shared everything from dreams of sports glory to 5-year business plans with their besties.
“Especially for me, going to college next year with no idea what I want to do, it was very inspirational, to see them so clearly and so confidently vocalize what they wanted to do."
“They were so ambitious! Just because they don’t have resources doesn’t mean they can’t do these great things.”
Julie and her classmates wanted to make sure the kids had a chance to reach the dreams they were so excited about. So they joined with the Northern Allegheny Rotary to gave the kids with the tools they needed to get there.
Through The Education Partnership’s Adopt-A-School program, they gave every child at Grandview a toolkit full of brand new supplies, and equipped every classroom with the key learning materials the kids were missing.
At Grandview Elementary, more than 70% of the kids qualify for the National Free and Reduced Lunch Program. When families are struggling to buy food, school supplies aren’t a priority. But as the students saw, the school didn’t have the resources to provide those critical learning tools, either.
Imagine trying to learn and grow without even having what you need to join in on lessons, or do your homework.
Some of the high school students never realized kids in their community faced a challenge like that.
“It’s so powerful for both sides,” said Kathy Will, the high school’s Interact Club sponsor. “Our students get a sense of gratitude and gratefulness for the things we take for granted.
“It helps our kids see that things are so much more complicated than what they hear on the news.”
For Anastasia, another mentor from the high school, it wasn’t so shocking. She’d gone to an inner-city school when she was younger, so she knew personally what an impact the Adopt-A-School could have— and not just from the supplies themselves.
“I think it makes a difference, having people who aren’t necessarily their families or teachers who believe in them,” she said.
And it does.
“I don’t know what all our kids’ home lives are like,” said Stephanie Szolis, a 3rd grade teacher at Grandview, “but for some, just to know someone is out there that cares makes a big impact.”
She made the Adopt-A-School part of her lesson unit about community service for her students.
“After the event, I talked to them about how they can impact others, and impact the community just like the older students did,” Stephanie said. “What North Allegheny did for them was really kind, and I hope that they pay it forward.”
Coming from older students, that message was even more powerful.
“Even if we’re older, they still see us as a ‘kid’ in high school, learning just like them,” Julie said. “It made it more exciting for them because they look up to us.”
Anastasha said she was honored to be a role model for that message.
“Even if we live in different parts of the city, we’re all in this together.”
A school near you still needs adopted.
To give local kids the chance to succeed, learn more about the impact you could make: