Savannah high school student creates mentorship program | Way of life

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SAVANNAH, Georgia — When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Savannah Arts Academy student Ava Dorminey decided she wanted to help students who might be struggling with the pandemic. She thought of a school supply drive or a mentoring program.

“I wanted to create an organization that targeted the academic side, but also a mentorship program that would instill qualities like leadership, confidence and teamwork,” she said.

By starting the Students Helping Students Succeed, or SHSS, organization in her first year, Dorminey hopes it will meet the needs of children in Savannah and Chatham County. She said it was created to help elementary students academically and socially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thirty-two students from nine different secondary schools in the region are part of SHSS. Students come from Savannah Arts Academy, Groves High School, Windsor Forest High School, Savannah Christian Preparatory School, Calvary Day School, Savannah-Chatham E-Learning Academy, New Hampstead High School, Woodville Tompkins High School and Savannah Country Day School.

She said interested students will need to complete an application and that some qualities of a candidate would include leadership.

“So it’s really like all the students in the Savannah area are helping other students,” she said.

The goal is to help teachers bridge the learning gaps that COVID-19 has caused for SCCPSS students, she said. She explained that high school students would help younger students by coaching them, helping them complete homework, and serving as role models and mentors.

She said her organization would also partner with teachers and provide extra help during tutorials or an after-school program.

“I thought COVID would only accelerate the problem… it seems there must be something else,” she said. “From there, I had the idea of ​​how I can help students in a way that is not only educational, but also builds their character.”

Dorminey got the idea to start SHSS because of her experience volunteering at the Isle of Hope Methodist Church’s Online Learning Academy. She spent five months at the church working with kindergarten and first graders.

While there, she helped students with tutoring, coursework, and media-related issues. She discovered that some students did not receive the same quality of education.

“It really helped me because it was students from all different schools and they kind of noticed the difference in the quality of education,” she said. “You had students from schools where the teachers were kind of spread out, you know, and I thought, you know, well, COVID is only going to accelerate this problem, so it seems like something else needs to be done. .”

To start

Dorminey said that to get her organization started, she had help from her counselor and Stacy Jennings, communications director for the Savannah-Chatham County public school system. She also called counselors at each high school to spread the word.

She also wanted to have a mentorship element in her organization, to target high school students. The plan was to launch the mentorship program last fall, but she was unable to do so due to pandemic restrictions. Dorminey said the plan is to start the program this month.

The mentorship program will take place primarily on Zoom.

HSS will also host group meetings and breakout sessions with high school students that will help them develop different traits such as leadership, self-esteem, and work ethic.

She said middle schoolers will be matched with an SHSS student after completing a form asking them about their interests and personality.

Dorminey chose to focus on college because she remembers being that age and what a tough time it was for her.

“College was a tough time for me, and I wish I had someone to talk to,” she said.

The organization organized a clean-up day at a local primary school, during which students from SHSS raked, trimmed bushes, painted and washed the exterior of a school.

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