During the lunch hour at Springer School, the playground is dotted with the eye-catching neon-green T-shirts on fifth- and sixth-graders who guide younger children through various activities.
One of the sixth-graders, Nicola Barcelona, helped second-grader Nora Pearl learn how to do a handstand.
“It’s fun to help small kids and play with them,” Nicola said.
Nicola is among more than 30 Springer student mentors. They volunteer one lunch break per week to serve as role models for K-4 students by facilitating games and reporting to teachers when they spot a playground conflict.
The Mentor Program, now in its second year, is the brainchild of Principal Lynn Boskie, who brought it with her from the Alum Rock School District, where she served a stint as principal years ago. She joined the Springer community in 2016.
“The Mentor Program is meant to instill leadership in students, to make the kids feel empowered and realize that they have as much to give each other as the adults have to give them,” she said.
Sixth-grade teachers Lauren Robb and Beth Rubinstein manage the Mentor Program, which was featured in a presentation at the Jan. 22 Los Altos School District Board of Trustees.
According to Rubinstein, the program gives mentors “a tremendous sense of responsibility and pride” by encouraging them to help younger students, whose parents have told her how much their children enjoy guidance from their senior mentors.
“The mentors really take their jobs seriously,” Rubinstein said. “They often come back and ask us how to deal with certain issues.”
Robb noted the positive effects of Springer’s Mentor Program.
“There is actually research that shows these types of programs providing problem-solving and mentorship during recess and lunch do have a measureable impact on the community of the school, and how it feels for kids,” she said.
Robb gave an example of children getting anxious about whom to sit with at lunch, and pointed to how Springer mentors alleviate such anxiety.
Rubinstein said it takes special kindness in a child to sacrifice his or her free time to offer support to others on a weekly basis.
Sixth-grader Isabella Perez said she signed up for the Mentor Program because she knows how to play an older sister’s role and enjoys it.
“I have one younger sister and six younger cousins,” she said.
Another student mentor, sixth-grader Daniela Mathieu, said she loves making friends with younger children.
“Now I have four friends in kindergarten,” Daniela said. “I really like being with little kids because they can be very creative. They invent games. They are really fun.”
Sixth-grader Jared Rahn said he became a Springer mentor because he is quiet and would like to become more assertive.
“I want to learn how to lead and adapt to difficult situations fast,” he said. “My favorite part of the program is being able to meet people I’ve never talked to before and learning more about them.”