By RENEE WEBB
Older students can serve as great role models for younger ones.
That is one of the main motivators behind St. Mary School in Humboldt forming a mentoring partnership with Bishop Garrigan High School in Algona, about 25 miles away.
According to Cindy Edge, principal at St. Mary’s, it was after Garrigan students attended a Mass in Humboldt last spring when she realized what a positive impact Catholic high school students could have on the grade schoolers. She has witnessed this concept in her own school through the buddy system with third- to sixth-graders serving as role models for the younger ones.
“I thought there was some more potential we could do with something like that,” noted the grade school principal. It was that Mass last spring that motivated Edge to reach out to Garrigan about establishing a mentoring program.
Christy Peterson, 4th to 12th grade principal at Bishop Garrigan School, said as they think about growing Catholic education in Kossuth County in the North Central part of the state, building ties between grade school and high school students can be a benefit.
“Students in our K-8 system at Seton in Algona are very lucky to have the faces of our high schoolers ever present to them,” she said. “When we are at Mass together or at sporting events, they get to see the high schoolers, so it’s a natural transition when they get to high school, they have been a part of their lives.”
While the Garrigan high schoolers have the chance to spend time with younger students in the system, Peterson said it’s good to be about connecting with those in another school. She called it an exciting program and they are continuing to look at ways for expansion.
“It’s really important that we have a relationship with any school in our area because it makes us stronger,” she said.
The principals noted a Garrigan high school student is paired up with a St. Mary’s grade schooler based on common interests such as sports, music, art, science and technology or if they live in a farming community. The pairings will remain for three years – building long-term friendships.
“They can build their relationship on the commonality of their faith, centered on common interests,” said Edge.
Peterson noted when the high schoolers go to Humboldt, they go to Mass with their buddies and then do a project together.
One set of Garrigan students met with St. Mary students for the first time in December to get acquainted and work on a service project. The two groups will meet again in the spring to work on a STEM (science and technology) project.
At a first-time meeting for a different group of students, they worked on a STEM project on Jan. 20.
“We got to teach the Garrigan students code and they taught us how to build the towers higher, it was really fun,” said Abby Bruening, a student at St. Mary’s.
For Ashlyn Harrington, a 10th grader at Bishop Garrigan, she said it was important to mentor younger students from the grade school she had attended, “so we can be a positive role model for them by our friendship and faith. Also to let them know we will be there for them and they have an opportunity to continue their Catholic education when they are done at St. Mary’s.”
Edge said the mentor relationship allowed St. Mary’s students to work closely with the high school students to see some of the options and possibilities as they enter high school so they can reach their full potential.
“I want them to be able to see all of the opportunities and ways they can explore their gifts,” she said.
Next year, Peterson noted they will rotate which grades go to the school to allow for a monthly presence at the school. In the future, they would like to have the Humboldt sixth graders travel to Algona next year as well for an activity.
“The kids have had a really good time,” said Edge. “They all get along – no discipline problems and there is a lot of laughter.”