Cunningham Academy Uses Mentoring to Support Social-Emotional Learning
Camelot’s Cunningham Academy and Petway Elementary School in Vineland, NJ, are partnering to provide an innovative, multi-age mentoring program called “CHAMPP” – Cunningham Helping and Mentoring Petway Patriots.
Twice a month, students from Cunningham Academy, ages 14-16, visit Petway and serve as mentors for a select group of second-grade students. The objective of this unique partnership is to increase the engagement, connections, and academic success of the mentees and mentors.
“The goal is to increase the sense of self-worth of both the mentors and the mentees,” said Cunningham’s Program Manager, Hamidullah Lundy. “Many of our students have younger siblings who ask them; ‘Who are you supporting? Who are you helping?”
Cunningham Academy students are put in a position of leadership as they develop responsibility and self-esteem while providing academic and social support for Petway Patriots. Academy students prepare for each meeting by developing a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) activity to complete with Petway students.
One of the projects involved the creation of ‘slime,’ a substance with the properties of both liquids and solids.
“The first time we did it, the slime project didn’t turn out too well,” said mentor Savannah Rodriguez. “It worked out a lot better the second time we tried it.”
The mentors provide educational support through shared reading and practice of foundational math skills. CHAMPP began on January 7th and runs through the end of the school year.
“As educators, we are aware that curriculum alone will not fully and completely educate students,” said Jennifer Frederico, principal at Petway. “There must be room to include the social-emotional component of learning.”
Lundy said Frederico reached out to Cunningham Academy to advance the project. He added that the students are doing a great job with the younger children. To qualify as a mentor, Academy students need to demonstrate consistent attendance, positive behavior, and be excelling in their academic coursework. Being a mentor is partly the recognition of the great progress they have made at the school.
Jennifer Gaskins, a Cunningham Academy mentor, sees the benefits of the program. “I love mentoring the younger students and teaching them to do better,” she said. “We’re showing them how to make good decisions.”
Christian Velez, another mentor said he’s the youngest child in his family and understands that the second graders at Petway need positive examples of leadership. “This is a great experience for me.”
Each mentoring session concludes with time to talk, and enjoy a healthy snack, allowing for students to build positive, enriching relationships before returning to their rigorous school day.