By Joanna Reid
April 23, 2021
Looking for a way to connect with your fellow Raiders? Atholton student panels are just what you need. Whether you’re an underclassman looking for advice, or an upperclassmen with knowledge to spare, these panels are the perfect place to meet other students and help each other navigate high school.
Atholton’s National Honor Society (NHS) recently began hosting the panels, which take place on the first Wednesday of each month via Google Meet, to give underclassmen a way to seek advice and help from upperclassmen who already know the ropes.
“It’s hard to reach out to adults, lately,” said NHS Vice President and Atholton senior, Justin Werner, “…so we wanted to give kids the opportunity to reach out to other kids who went through what they’re going to go through, and give them the best way possible that they can navigate it.”
In the past year, teachers and schools have had to get creative to find ways to engage students and create a sense of community. While classes continue, many students are missing out on sports, clubs, dances, and other events that allowed them to meet their peers and develop their non-academic pursuits. As Justin put it, students are missing the parts of school that “make you feel part of something.” In addition, it’s become harder for some to reach out to others for advice about classes and college applications.
“We’re all really missing part of our high school experience,” said Atholton NHS president Maggie Fan. She explained that it was important to “bridge the gap” by providing an environment where students could talk about these things and hear from others about their experiences.
An email sent to students from Nehal Naqvi describes the panels as “mostly for students needing help or advice,” but also welcoming to those who are “just bored or feeling a little disconnected from the Atholton Community”. Those interested in going can navigate to the front page of the Atholton NHS website to sign up either as mentors or attendees. Mentors are upperclassmen who give their counsel; attendees are underclassmen or juniors who are seeking advice.
Upon joining the Google Meet, students who are attendees could put their questions into the chat box, so that the mentors could go through and answer them. The structure isn’t overly formal, so students could ask for more clarification if necessary. The panels are geared towards helping students get the information or advice they need. Maggie added that “there could be a conversation back and forth; it’s not just a Q-and-A session.”
NHS’s four pillars are scholarship, leadership, service, and character, and in the student panels, mentors have an opportunity to serve attendees by helping them with whatever concerns they bring up or questions they ask. There are many ways to get something meaningful out of these panels, but Justin’s suggestion is that attendees be purposeful.
“Don’t just ask a question to ask a question.” He emphasized that students seeking advice should be ready, and added, “If there’s something you actually have a concern about, ask about it and maybe ask follow-up questions for more specifics.”
It may seem daunting to ask questions about applying for college or internships, or trying out for a sport, but these panels aren’t something to stress over. Attendees can rest assured that they’re getting advice from people who’ve been in their position and who genuinely want to help them out.
“It’s an event you should try to take advantage of. It isn’t this awkward thing where you’re sitting with five seniors and you’re just staring at them across a screen. We’re there to help you,” says the NHS President. She explained how having someone to talk with about what classes are available and what courses to take based on aspirations and interests can help point students in the direction they want to go, without pushing them into one thing or telling them exactly what they should pursue.
As for mentors, especially seniors, it may seem like there’s nothing to gain from attending these panels. Many have already gone through the experiences that are discussed, and will graduate soon. However, that’s the very thing that makes them great for the role. Upperclassmen can share what they’ve learned from their experiences at Atholton, and be there for their younger peers. Justin suggested they show up and try out being a mentor, because they’ll probably learn something from somebody there.
While the focus is on helping underclassmen, there’s knowledge to be gained all around in the new student panels. “Never underestimate the power of someone else’s experience” said the NHS vice president emphatically. “Everyone’s got something to offer.”