After noticing concerning numbers in the graduation rates of hispanic students at SHS, assistant principal Amy Boone, collaborating with ELL administrator Lisa Netsch, SMS administrator David Walpole and spanish teacher Jamie Marshall, sought to improve this problem.
A few selected juniors are a part of a newly introduced program at SHS called the “Latinx Program.” Their main goal is to help increase the graduation rates of Hispanic students by helping middle schoolers have a smoother transition into high school.
“We felt as though they needed greater mentorship and guidance than we had been giving them in the past,” Marshall said.
At the request of Boone, Marshall was asked to help with the program due to her prior experience administrating. Before becoming a teacher, she was a dean at the middle school. Now, using her current position as a level 3 Spanish teacher, she promoted the program to her students and recommended them to become mentors for the program.
One of these students, junior Michelle Torres, was inspired to join the program because she was aware of how fortunate she was. She was able to enter high school with good opportunities and the information that she needed to be successful. Torres wanted other students to have that opportunity as well.
“I wanted to help students and show them it’s possible to manage your time and do a lot of things,” Torres said.
Through the promotion of the program, Torres, among other students like Enzo Zavaleta and Dariely Raudales, decided to apply to become mentors for the program. The application process of becoming a mentor consisted of filling out a form that contained certain requirements.
Since the program was to help Hispanic students, mentors had to be able to speak a certain level of Spanish in order to get this position. Students also were expected to have good behavior, attendance and grades.
The program initially started after winter break. During this time, junior mentors visited the middle school for the first time to meet the students involved in the program. Some of the middle school students had an easier time speaking English, while others felt more comfortable speaking Spanish. So, mentors often switched the two to ensure that students understood.
In order to help the students feel comfortable around the mentors and around each other, mentors often had students participate in ice breakers. These challenges were usually planned in advance during a group meeting held during ipass.
“I personally enjoy them cause it makes what would usually be an awkward situation into something fun,” Zavaleta said.
The mentors informed the students of a variety of things about SHS. They were able to bring the students to the high school, where they received a tour detailing what the life of a high schooler looked like, as well as terms for certain areas around school and shortcuts to classes.
After each meeting with the students, mentors are expected to fill out a google form survey detailing their visit. Mentors answer questions about their experience at the middle school and comment on any concerns they might have.
“I think it allows us to self-reflect because we can note what we want to work on with them and come up with new ideas for future meetings,” Raudales said.
Due to this being the first year, there are still a lot of trial and errors within the program. The hope for next year is that they can start the program from the beginning of the school year. This year, only about 28 students were chosen by the middle school to participate in this program, but Marshall said she hopes that more students will be able to join the program in the future.
One change that the program wants to take advantage of is the mixed-grade ipass. The current juniors, who will be seniors next year, will be placed in the same Ipass class as current 8th graders, who will be freshmen next year. This immersion will allow the students to be more comfortable to see a familiar face, ultimately providing a smoother transition into high school life.
“I’m really looking forward to see how the students adapt and take into consideration everything we’ve told them. I am excited to see them again as freshmen next year,” Zavaletta said.

Mentors in the Latinx program volunteer to explain the ice breaker activity to the students on Feb. 25. The program is mostly run by mentors. (Photo contributed by Enzo Zavaleta)