Camelot Education’s Thunderbolt Academy Students Learn About Leadership by Mentoring Others
When some of the students at Camelot Education’s Thunderbolt Academy were asked to begin mentoring younger students at nearby Lakeside Elementary School, they were excited but not sure exactly what to expect.
That is, until they actually got started.
“We wanted our students to begin developing relationships with younger students on a peer level. Once we began the session, they really got into it,” said Thunderbolt Academy’s Executive Director Geoff Ashton. “Our students took the leadership stance, and they began to immediately reflect on their own experiences. They would tell their mentees, ‘I used to think like that’ and ‘I used to do that.’ Once they got engaged with the younger students, it was really amazing to watch. The students that were being mentored were a little closed off at first, but it didn’t take them long to open up.”
Thunderbolt Academy student, Tamira Burrus, age 17, is one of the mentors. She said got involved because helping others is important.
“Having more respectful interactions makes for better relationships,” she said. “My favorite part was when we really started to open up to each other. You could just feel the change in dynamic, and by the end of the session, we felt like old friends.”
According to Ashton, five students from Thunderbolt Academy, in grades 8-12, were selected to participate. The students mentored their Lakeside peers who are in the 6th grade.
“Five of our students met with and mentored ten Lakeside students with the overall purpose of instilling greater self-esteem in the younger students. They demonstrated the value of studying hard, doing their homework, and the importance of recognizing that actions have consequences,” Ashton said. “We partner with other schools and various programs in the district to help students improve their coping and reasoning skills while reinforcing the importance of a strong academic foundation.”
Camelot’s Thunderbolt Academy in Millville, New Jersey, is a transitional school for students who were removed from their regular school for behavioral infractions and often risk not matriculating or graduating on time. At Camelot, we support a shift in perspective toward a growth mindset, we teach coping skills and replacement behaviors, and we help remove trauma from a students’ academic equation so they can focus on the hard work of learning. Students from Thunderbolt eventually will return to their home schools with improved behavior, attendance, and academics.
Camelot Education’s schools are extensions of the communities they serve. Young people in many of the communities where Camelot schools exist often struggle with broad and significant issues such as violence, trauma, and insecurity.
Ashton, who has been with Camelot for the last 12 years, said he sees Thunderbolt Academy as a partner with, and a support resource for, Millville Public Schools. He said the mission is to flip society’s often negative view of the students in struggling communities.
“The session began with 20 minutes of actual tutoring and reading to the younger students,” Ashton said. “There was a half hour STEAM session followed by lunch, giving students time to socialize with each other and develop relationships. Our student participants were selected because they demonstrated the greatest overall changes in behavior and academic progress since being with us at Thunderbolt Academy. Camelot is really active in our approach of how and why we do things with our students. It’s the outcome that is most important.”
Thunderbolt Academy student Zada Williams, 15, said she participated because she can relate to the younger girls and why they behave the way that they do. She also said her favorite aspect of the session was the younger girls being friendly and opening up to the mentors.
“I’ve learned that change is real, and change is good,” Zada said. “I plan to use what I learned by continuing to teach responsibility, positivity, and respect as the keys for success. I’m willing to help with anything that will help kids help themselves.”
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