Igniting Difference In Freshmen

Antioch Community High School heads into their second year of the Ignition Peer Mentoring program. The goal of the program is to enhance the success of freshman throughout the next four years.


With the motto “respect, responsibility and pride” running through the halls at Antioch Community High School, there seems to be greater recognition of the Sequoit Pride feeling present in the school. ACHS has recently furthered that motto with the implementation of the Ignition program.

To improve the relationships of the student body at ACHS, as well as provide a program for a smoother transition for freshmen, the Ignition program will continue to focus on growth in the school environment in hopes it maintains the following years.

Ignition is a national program that has become increasingly applied into curriculua throughout the country. The strategy of the Ignition Peer Mentoring program is to, “focus on the importance of school-based mentoring on youth risk behavior,” as mentioned on their national platform website, Ignition Mentoring. Based on a customized mentoring plan, the schools who participate in the program begin integrating the 9th grade transition programs through teacher and student-led help.

ACHS began the journey to increase student success two years ago when Ignition began running. Alongside specific expert trainers, the program helped train select sophomores, juniors and seniors to learn the ways of success.

In order to start of the year with a bang, the program included their second-annual Ignite Day (orientation) for the incoming freshman. From there, the mentors continue to meet with their mentees throughout the year while performing activities and discussions to better calm the change between middle-school and high-school.

One of this years faculty advisers, Michael Riggs, is an advocate for the programs success.

“We pair groups of freshmen up with upper class student mentors who help them out with socialization, social-emotional learning, academics, if we can, and engagement in the school,” Riggs said. “[We want to] make sure their high school experience is as successful as we can make it.”

Throughout the year, the mentors are trained with certain team-building and school related activities that can help the freshmen become more aware of the student community at ACHS. From low-ropes courses to goal setting, the program works to ensure positive change is being made.

Studies by the National Ignition Mentoring program have been shown to prove that encouraging the Ignition program will increase a 9th graders grades, emotional well-being, and behavior.

Along with the mentees benefits, there are also multiple advantages for the mentors. Junior Jena Burton became a mentor this year and has reaped the benefits.

“It’s a really good way to learn how to lead something,” Burton said. “Not a lot of people get experience until they get to their job and this is a really great way to start that off early.”

Being a leader is a key role to becoming a student mentor. The upperclassmen mentors learn how to handle difficult communication situations, as well as become more connected with the freshmen. The leaders also receive first-hand experience on what it’s like to be on the front lines of teaching. While the program does require extra time spent to train and meet with their assigned students, it seems the pros outway the cons.

“I think it gives [mentors] responsibility in a way that they haven’t had before,” Riggs said. “They became more confident and they became more assertive.”

While those skills are necessary to succeed in life, there are also benefits in the relationships built with their younger classmates. With small class sizes graduating from schools such as Grass Lake School and Emmons Grade School, the ability for students to feel lost may seem higher now more than ever. Engaging on a weekly basis with the freshman helps forge a healthier student community with students who feel they are accepted and wanted at the school. These connections help the new students feel welcomed at sporting events and clubs, while also helping the students become connected to the school atmosphere. Freshman student Sarah Vilardi has found the experience with her mentors to be worthwhile.

“[The mentors] really know their way around the school,” Vilardi said. “They are able to give us advice about classes to take and [how to] prepare for the rest of high school.”

Students interested in the program can become mentors through a selective application process. Current mentors have been nominated by staff members at ACHS due to their ability to show leadership and show potential to offer something towards the program.

“I think the more good students we have involved as mentors, then the more good students these freshmen are exposed to,” Riggs said. “The more mentors we have, the lower the ratio of freshmen to mentors, which means you get a more personalized connection.”

Similarly, Burton believes the program has more benefits to offer.

“I really would recommend it [the program],” Burton said. “It’s a new program and the more people who join it the better it will be and the more influential it will be and the more impact it will have on people.”

As the Ignition program continues its second year, there are lots of goals the program wishes to reach.

“Three years from now every student at Antioch would have been through the program their freshman year,” Riggs said. “Hopefully, the culture of the school would continue to be improved, [with] more kids involved, more kids who are more connected to each other, [and] more kids who are more successful academically.”

With student culture in mind, the Ignition program will continue to serve as a method to positively enhance the community at ACHS in the following years to come.