Entering a new school can be a tough adjustment for students, especially those who have relocated from another country. To help ease students’ worries and fears about adjusting to a new school environment, FBISD has initiated a pilot peer mentoring program, Buddies for Success, for English as a Second Language (ESL) students at Kempner High School.
Coordinated by the Special Programs Department’s Title III Immigrant Check and Connect social workers (Regina Garza, Jamie Gibbon and Van Hua), Buddies for Success connects the ESL student immigrants who are new to the United States with peer mentors and tutors.
“Our students who volunteer as peer mentors and tutors are trained to help the new residents navigate through our school system and learn the English language,“said Garza. “The goal of the program is to connect the ESL students with the general population to ensure their academic success.”
The peer mentors, who have agreed to a year-long commitment to the program, befriend and assist the new students with their studies. They also meet weekly in a group setting to take part in fun activities, led by the Title III Check and Connect social workers, designed to help build teamwork and improve critical thinking and communication skills.
“It has been a very rewarding experience for both the ESL students and peer mentors these past few months,” said Gibbon. “The mentees and mentors have learned to embrace one another’s cultures and have become a unified group on campus.”
The Check and Connect program is a metaphor for transition as the students served through this program are acclimated to American culture, the American high school educational system, and will ultimately learn skills to achieve the American dream. Check and Connect is designed to encourage student engagement and learning in school through a comprehensive model. Fundamental elements in the model include relationship building, routine monitoring, individualized intervention, promotion of problem-solving skills, and encouragement of student participation in school activities.