Revamped Menlo Mentorship Program Builds Community Amid Distance Learning

Senior+Sadie+Stinson+and+her+freshmen+mentorship+group+meet+over+Zoom+to+discuss+the+start+of+the+school+year.+Staff+photo%3A+Sadie+Stinson.

Senior Sadie Stinson and her freshmen mentorship group meet over Zoom to discuss the start of the school year. Staff photo: Sadie Stinson.

Danielle McNair, Staff Writer

Dean of Freshman Transition Cindy Lapolla and  Freshman Class Advisor Eve Kulbieda are reintroducing the Menlo Mentorship Program this fall to help incoming freshmen transition to high school by meeting seniors who have similar experiences.

“Menlo had a program like this in the 90s that was run by [Lapolla],” Kulbieda said. “Having a program like this was going to be especially important this year.”

The program involves groups with one senior who is the designated mentor for five freshmen. The freshmen in each group share the same advocacy. These groups meet weekly to ask and answer questions, provide support throughout the transition to high school and forge a bond between grade levels.

The program was not started as a result of COVID-19; in fact, the program was planned prior to the pandemic. “[Lapolla] and I were talking in March about getting our idea running. Every year at orientation we try to pull it together on too short of notice. It has never worked,” Kulbieda said.

Kulbieda emphasized the importance of what she hopes both freshmen and seniors get out of being a part of this new program. “My number one thing that I hope [freshmen] get out of it is a sense of belonging. You are now a Knight and part of our community,” Kulbieda said. “The other thing [is] I hope the seniors feel a deep sense of appreciation not only from the staff and freshman, but for the school.”

“As a freshman, I really looked up to the seniors as role models. I really wanted to be that for these kids,” senior Christian Corcoran said in response to why he volunteered to participate. He also mentioned, as Kulbieda hoped, that this role made him reflect on his time at Menlo and how he could use his experiences as advice for freshmen. 

The goal of this program is to really focus on forging a unique senior-freshman bond, according to Ms. Kulbieda. Incoming freshman and mentee Paige Miller spoke about how she has really connected with senior mentor Lindsey Canessa. “I love [Lindsey]. She’s super funny and always helpful. I feel like she is there for me for whatever I need her for,” Miller said.

“I’m feeling really positive about how it started. I think the focus now is on communicating between the seniors and [Lapolla] and I in order to build out this program,” Kulbieda added.

Corcoran expressed similar feelings. “My interactions with my mentees were very positive. I thought they were going to be shy like I was as a freshman, but instead they were very vocal and unafraid to ask questions. I feel very confident that this program is the foundation to the start of a powerful friendship.” 

The inaugural year for this program is running smoothly, and there are potential big plans for the future. Most staff, seniors and freshman alike are hopeful that classes will resume on campus at some point this school year to carry out bonding activities and in-person meetings.