Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Springstead High-Suncoast Elementary mentoring program soothes transition

Sarah Costa, 14, left, a ninth-grader at Springstead High, plays Scrabble in the media center of Suncoast Elementary School on Thursday with Patricia Comaianni, 11, a fifth-grader at Suncoast she has been mentoring this school year. The two have been writing to each other several times a month.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Sarah Costa, 14, left, a ninth-grader at Springstead High, plays Scrabble in the media center of Suncoast Elementary School on Thursday with Patricia Comaianni, 11, a fifth-grader at Suncoast she has been mentoring this school year. The two have been writing to each other several times a month.

SPRING HILL

Like a lot of fifth-graders, Noelle Rosa was feeling anxious about attending middle school in the fall. Luckily, she had an older friend in whom she could confide. Ninth-grader Allyson Schillinger remembers what it was like when she was about to enter middle school. She worried back then, too.

"I remember going into sixth grade and worrying, 'What if I get lost?' " Allyson said.

Noelle and Allyson are part of a unique partnership called the Suncoast-Springstead Writing Project and Mentoring Program. Students at both schools have been communicating for the entire school year through a journal writing exchange.

Last week, the participants met face-to-face for the first time.

Carol Greig, honors English teacher at Springstead High School, and her daughter Jennifer Soccorso, who teaches fifth grade at Suncoast Elementary School, designed the program last fall.

They had coordinated similar exchanges before, but this year was different. They matched the students based on personality and interest, and focused on positive mentoring.

"It's a responsibility to have these bright kids make a commitment to the community," Greig said.

"It taps into the natural desire of younger kids to talk with older ones and of older ones to want to teach what they know," she said.

The younger students had an authentic reason to write. They looked forward to reading responses from their older buddies. Over the year, the quality of their writing and communication improved dramatically, Soccorso said.

Plus, writing gave students an opportunity to share what might otherwise and have been too difficult. An older mentor provided support, particularly for students who might be at risk for isolation and depression, she added.

And older students got a lesson in service and empathy.

"What started out as being like an older brother or sister — initially they'd share and chuckle — turned into something else," Greig said. "They've really matured into this. It's not a fun-and-games thing."

There's mutual respect and a new understanding of what it means to be a positive role model, she said.

The journals, which traveled between schools in a large pink box, were exchanged several times a month over the course of the school year.

Ninth-grader Megan Holley comes from a large family. When her fifth-grade friend Aliza Aponte was concerned about how a new baby might change things at home, her mentor helped her to feel better.

"She dealt with all those brothers and sisters," Aliza said.

Such exchanges are what Soccorso and Greig hoped for. Teachers carefully monitored students to ensure the writing and material was appropriate.

Several students have developed positive relationships outside of the journal exchange.

Fifth-grader ShyAnne Marshall was able to talk about friendship issues, the kinds that typically arise at this age. Her ninth-grade mentor, Kailey Genrich, helped her to see things differently and to feel less alone.

"You feel like you always have somebody to talk to," ShyAnne said.

"Someone who isn't involved in all the drama," Kailey said.

While both groups of students move on in the fall, one to middle school and the other up to 10th grade, their teachers are certain they have been changed by the experience.

Through writing, Greig said, they've had the experience of seeing the world through each other's eyes.

Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at [email protected]

Springstead High-Suncoast Elementary mentoring program soothes transition 05/23/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 23, 2009 11:35am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Mother's testimony about toddler's death brings judge to tears

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Nayashia Williams woke up early on May 7, 2014, to the sound of her daughter calling for her. It was the last time the young mother's mornings would begin with a summons from Myla Presley, who couldn't yet climb over the mesh fencing around the playpen she used as a bed.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing the 19 month-old daughter of his girlfriend in 2014. He said the child fell while he was giving her a bath. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Speakers: Getting tough can't be only response to teen car thefts

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Dillinger remembers coming to Pinellas County as a legal intern in 1975. There were five major poverty zones in St. Petersburg.

    Wengay Newton, Florida House of Representatives (in front, in center), talks as a panelist to a packed room during a community forum on "Reclaiming our Youth: Is Juvenile Justice a Reality?" at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg Wednesday evening (10/17/17). The event was presented by the Fred G. Minnis, Sr. Bar Association. Community leaders discussed the ongoing auto theft epidemic among Pinellas youth.
  4. Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility and spousal abuse

    Politics

    White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Donald Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter told the …

  5. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.