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‘I Just Made Them My Friends’

New Mentor Program Helps Students Feel Connected

When eighth-grader Jaden Delosh started attending the middle school right after spring break, he was happy to have Ke’Waun Blackmon show him around.

“It gave me a friend,” said Jaden, who moved from Waterford, near Detroit.

Ke’Waun made the transition a little easier, showing him around to classrooms introducing him to teachers and classmates, and inviting him to join him at lunch.

Ke’Waun Blackmon and Jaden DeLosh walk to their lockers between class
Ke’Waun Blackmon and Jaden DeLosh walk to their lockers between class

About 30 students in grade six through eight are assigned as mentors to befriend and welcome new students, making sure they feel welcome.

Counselor Michelle Barrows started the mentorship program, which involves twice monthly meetings, to build a team of students that reach out to others, whether that’s new students or anyone appearing isolated or upset. Teachers recommended students to serve as mentors who have showed good leadership skills and the ability to take initiative.

“They are a force for positive change in this school,” Barrows said. “If they see someone being made fun of or who is crying, they are supposed to step up.”

They have welcomed 41 new students this year, and many have formed relationships. Sixth-grade mentors will also help fifth-graders during Move-Up Day in May, when the younger students visit to tour their new school building.

Mentors participated in “Start with Hello,” part of the Sandy Hook Promise campaign, which equips students with skills needed to reach out to and include those who may be dealing with chronic social isolation. The goal is to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school.

The Sandy Hook Promise is a national non-profit organization founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. It provides programs and practices that protect children.

“I really want it to make it a little more than just showing a new kid around,” Barrows said.

Ke’Waun said mentoring Jaden and another student earlier this year has helped him learn how to “be friends with everyone.”

“I learned how to respect different people and to have good relationships,” he said.

“I said, ‘If you need anything, you can come to me and ask me. I just made them my friends… It was really fun helping other students come to our school and know they are going to be safe and have a good time here.”


Sandy Hook Promise

Ke’Waun Blackmon is helping new student Jaden Delosh around Kelloggsville Middle School


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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


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