FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — For fifth grader Holly Fuller, the looming transition to middle school doesn’t seem so scary thanks to the mentorship of a group of Leading Ladies.
“You have people you can talk to and people who understand what you’re going through,” Fuller said. “People are always going to be there for you when you need them. I know what to do in middle school now, and if I need help I know people I can go to.”
That was one of the main goals for the Leading Ladies group which formed this semester. Students in a leadership class at Forsyth Central High School travel across the street to Cumming Elementary School and teach the younger students, dubbed the “Girls with Confidence,” positive social skills and help build positive relationships.
The collaboration is part of “vertical alignment” where the schools in a cluster, such as Cumming Elementary, Otwell Middle and Forsyth Central High, join together to mentor incoming students, said Kerry Britt, counselor at Cumming Elementary.
“This is one of the first times the high school students worked with the elementary students,” Britt said. “We’re trying to work as a team together.”
The fifth graders in the group needed an extra boost before going to middle school, Britt said.
Forsyth Central teacher Myriah Richerson said it’s important to join the cluster schools.
“These kids are going to be ours,” Richerson said. “So it’s good to start that relationship because we’re trying to build a family within a family. We want to connect and have a small community feel for the students.”
Topics include gaining confidence, staying safe on social media and choosing positive role models.
All the high schoolers are trained by Forsyth County Schools social workers through the mentor training program, so when tough topics or questions come up, they’re able to answer and also provide age appropriate guidance.
Sophomore Anna Newsome is one of the high schoolers who taught the final lesson. She said the Leading Ladies are a diverse group of female students from all grade levels and backgrounds.
The older students are paired with a younger student for mentorship.
“The first time we were here, it was, of course, awkward because we didn’t know each other,” Newsome said. “Everyone was kind of scared to talk to each other. Now we are a lot closer. You can tell bonds have been formed.”
The younger students are able to relate to the older students, so the topics make more of an impact.
“It’s important they know these things,” Newsome said. “It’s important that it comes from us as we’ve been through the things they’ll go through. We already know what they’ll experience in middle school, so we can really help them out in the future.”
Newsome said she knows the girls will carry the conversations with them throughout their life.
“Learning it from a young age is important so you can develop and grow on the foundation that we’re trying to give them now,” Newsome said.