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Bernotas Mentoring Program Fosters Inclusivity

Viking mentors

On Thursday, December 14, Bernotas 8th grade Viking Mentors met with 6th graders to enjoy bagels and board games and getting to know one another before kicking off the school day. After the event, the 8th graders sent follow-up notes to the 6th graders they met and will meet monthly with them for the remainder of the school year.  

The “Bagel Buddies” event is part of the 8th Grade Viking Mentors program, which pairs 8th grade student leaders with 6th graders to help them become acclimated to the school. The program is led by two District 47 staff members, Brittany Stefani (MTSS coach) and Rachelle Dool (6th grade social studies teacher). While the number of student leaders varies each year, 28 eighth graders were selected to serve as Viking Mentors for the 2022-23 school year. 

At the beginning of each school year, Viking mentors help 6th graders become familiar with the layout of the building; make introductions to teachers and other students who will be on their team; and answer questions the students may have. The Viking Mentors also help with orientation events, family nights, and other community events that take place throughout the year. In addition, some of them also help plan and deliver the district’s digital citizenship program to 3rd-8th graders in the fall and spring.  

Eighth grade Viking Mentor Skyler Ferrero said one of the things she finds most valuable about the Viking Mentors program is trying to building the confidence of other students. “Once they’re confident with us, maybe it’ll make it easier for them to make friends in their own grade. They might even be a Viking Mentor themselves one day!” 

Eighth grader Nate Muszynski said the mentorshp program is a relatively new concept to him and the other 8th grade mentors as it wasn’t available to them due to the pandemic. “I think it's important what we’re doing because it helps people.  Some of these students are pretty similar to me when I was in sixth grade.”

Several years ago, the Viking Mentors program expanded to include neighboring North Elementary School for the North Buddies program, where the 8th graders work with elementary students to help them develop a variety of academic and social emotional skills. 

“Our Viking Mentors really serve as role models for all grade levels and truly exemplify District 47’s mission of “Empowering All Students: Learners Today - Leaders Tomorrow,” said Brittany Stefani. “We are so proud of the important work they are doing to make connections with other students and to enhance the culture and climate of our building.“