The young female students at St. Anne’s School bounce up and down the hallway – giggling laughing and pointing.
They act much the same, talk about a lot of the same subjects and seem to be a collection of really good friends.
But there is a difference that goes unnoticed to the untrained eye. Half of these students are young women, in Grade 8 to be exact, while the balance are still just children – in Grade 5.
But a new mentoring program at St. Anne’s is helping to fill the gaps between the students and promote some inner-school camaraderie.
The school’s Speak Up! program, part of a Ministry of Education plan to help break down social and learning barriers in the school yard and on the street, has been bringing the young people together.
Christine Campeau, Grade 5 teacher at St. Anne’s, says the school is already seeing the changes in the young female students, and the program is just two months old.
“We’re really starting to see a lot of the younger ones coming out of their shells,” she said in an interview. “It’s great for our school that so many of the students are wanting to take part.”
The Grade 8 girls were asked to brainstorm activities that would unite them with the younger girls and they came up with a number of ideas.
Recent activities include creating shirts together while sharing some pizza, or playing games while dining on tacos.
“The older girls are really excited to be with the younger ones,” said Clarissa Clarke-Santin, Grade 8 teacher.
Campeau said it was becoming apparent that some of the younger children were starting to exhibit some social skills that required improving.
“We saw that the Grade 5 girls needed some support…as far as having healthy self-esteem and self confidence,” she said.
The Speak Up! program must be working, because an interview with Grade 5 student Zoe Robinson exhibited self-confidence and a good deal of wisdom for someone still measuring her age in single digits.
She said the program has been helpful in creating relationships with older students.
“It’s like, you know when you have some older kids who are mean to little kids? Now we’re like good friends,” she said.
The sentiment was echoed by her mentor Hannah Vida, a Grade 8 student.
“We can help them with their problems in the school yard and outside school,” she said.
The program is expected to run until the end of the school year. Campeau said the school will make some determinations in the fall about continuing it in one form or another.