By Samira Harris, Summit Olympus
High school can be tough to navigate. Like many of my friends, I spend a lot of my time thinking about my future – where I’ll go and what I’ll do. In between all the stress and planning, we high schoolers also have to focus on what we do every day; studying hard, passing our exams, and staying on track to graduate. Fortunately for myself and my peers at Summit Olympus, a public charter high school in Tacoma, we have teachers and faculty that help us plan and take steps to find, finance, and apply for college.
I’m graduating this spring, so I’ve been looking back and thinking about my four years at Olympus and what made my time here special. For me, it comes down to the unique community we’ve built.
That community starts with my mentor group. After entering Summit Olympus, students are connected with a small group of peers led by a mentor who takes a personal interest in our futures. We meet regularly throughout our entire time at Summit Olympus, to discuss everything from assignments to how we learn, to life in general. Over the years, you become close. The 13 students in my group quickly became friends – rooting for each other’s successes and keeping ourselves accountable academically.
Mentoring works for me because I know I have a trusted adult on campus who helps guide me through my high school experience, as well as the college application experience. I am able to call on my mentor for support on matters both inside and outside the classroom. You really feel like you’re building connections that last. And while your mentor is your advocate, it’s up to you to use what you learn from them. After all, when I graduate, I’m not going to be able to rely on my mentor in college.
Having a mentor group helps create a sense of community that makes learning fun and engaging. Each year, a couple weeks before school, our mentor group takes an overnight camping trip. It’s the best experience – we have our mentors and mentees together, which helps us build our little community. We do talent shows, mentor Olympics, and other team building activities – they’re a nice way to start off the school year. Within my group, there’s a lot of diversity, so we’re always learning about different backgrounds and sharing our own stories and perspectives.
During the craziness of the school year, we can all get caught up in our classes and the day-to-day demands of high school. This is when the mentor group helps lift each other up. Earlier this year, our group decided to dedicate a day to apply for colleges and write our personal essays. We all had a goal of where we wanted to go to college, and we helped each other, working through 15 applications in one day! My school has helped me better prepare for my future, how to set goals, plan ahead, and stay on track to graduation. And they actually require you to apply for college! So, even if you don’t go, you can go later in life.
My time at Summit Olympus has prepared for my next move, and I’ll forever be grateful for that. As I look back, I’m thinking about what I would tell myself on my first day, and what advice I would give to new students. All you have to do is break out of the shy shell and say, “Hello!” Make some friends and listen to your mentor. Spend your time wisely – high school goes by fast!