There’s a lot more to high school than academics. Just ask Isabel S., who had trouble fitting in and socializing with her fellow students — which made it hard to concentrate in class as she found herself procrastinating on homework and falling behind. Then she transferred to our school where she was paired with an Alumni Ambassador, a recent graduate with a similar high school experience. The peer mentoring Isabel received helps students build community while making them more likely to persist through academic difficulty.1

“My ambassador is Jolie, and she instantly made me feel welcome at my new school,” said Isabel. “She taught me to feel comfortable being around other people and encouraged me to join the Student Leadership Committee where I could socialize with people while working together on events.”

Before Jolie came here, she too felt lost in high school. Her experience at high school was hectic and she felt like she was falling through the cracks. “Traditional high school for me was a struggle. I was always falling behind and couldn’t find my groove,” she explained. “I was just longing to be heard.”

And heard she was. “Everyone at here is so caring, and the needs of their students are always the top priority,” Jolie said. “So now as an ambassador, I can give students that same attention and understanding.” Most of our students come after struggling in a traditional school and in need of instruction that better meets their learning style. We provide twice the number of school counselors and tutors and our Alumni Ambassadors act as mentors, facilitators and friends to students.

“I head up a Student Leadership Committee and I strive to teach students to take initiative and involve themselves in the community,” she added. “Plus, I work with the school counselors to help students finish their career exploration elective credits and to complete student aid and college applications.”

January is National Mentoring Month to raise awareness about how one conversation, one experience and one mentor can positively change a young person’s life. We started our Alumni Ambassador program six years ago to offer an extra layer of support to students. This part-time position is offered to recent grads who demonstrated leadership and initiative. Many of the ambassadors are pursuing post-secondary education or vocational training while mentoring students.

Jolie graduated in 2020 and is working on her associate degree at a community college – the first in her immediate family to do either. She plans to complete a four-year program with a major in psychology and aspires to go to medical school. Her advice to other students who have been struggling in school is to understand the importance of perseverance. “If you want to grow, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone.”

Written By:
Ann Abajian