Now in its seventh year, the OPRFHS Leadership and Launch course has become an essential—and popular—way for upperclassmen develop leadership skills while helping freshmen establish a sense of belonging in their new school.
Junior and senior students must apply and interview for a leadership spot in the program. This year we have 126 leaders, who work together in small squads to plan and facilitate activities. They spend three days a week mentoring more than 600 freshmen in their study halls as well as Extended and Pre-Algebra, World Studies, Adapted PE, Academic Enrichment, and other courses.
The leaders support the freshmen in a variety of ways, including identifying activities and athletics to help them get connected to school, promoting social-emotional health, tutoring, and developing executive functioning, organizational, and social skills. Importantly, the demographics of the mentors mirror the diversity of the larger freshman group. This allows students, particularly those from marginalized groups, to play a key role in creating an environment that prizes their cultural wealth and values.
The confidence the leaders gain from assisting the freshmen and the pride they have for those they mentor is remarkable. The freshmen in turn find a safe place in their day and learn to advocate for themselves—and many of them have gone on to become leaders in the program, helping to transform the culture of our school into one of shared responsibility, care, and respect for all.
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