Fresh Connect is a leadership program in which upperclassmen teach and guide a group of freshmen. The upperclassmen serve as mentors who assist and help the freshmen with the transition between middle and high school by getting them familiar with it. Fresh Connect would normally take place during the second or first half of the student’s lunch period on Thursdays. However, due to online learning this year, Fresh Connect took place during the Monday lunch periods. The program has recently ended; however, students and teachers had much to reflect on regarding this year’s new way of running the program.
“It gives freshmen the opportunity to meet other freshmen and to ask questions that they might have to start high school,” Fresh Connect sponsor Lara Polivieja said. “The groups that meet are run primarily by the student leadership team, and the class is supported by an MVHS staff member. Topics include getting involved, tips on staying connected, having success remotely, knowing resources in the building, how to access support, and many more.”
Fresh Connect has seen a great number of changes this year due to remote learning. Students no longer see each other in person, which makes it difficult for upperclassmen and freshmen to interact with each other.
“I wish we were in person so I could have more conversations and get to know the group,” junior Fresh Connect leader Elena Lehner said. “A big point of Fresh Connect is just to have fun and talk, but over Zoom, it’s hard to do.”
Some freshmen also feel as if the point of Fresh Connect this year has been skewed due to remote learning. The bigger picture of Fresh Connect, to create valuable relationships and learn more about the school, is not something that many students feel is being upheld this year.
“The one thing I mainly dislike is the awkward silences,” freshman Atma Patel said. “On Zoom, it is hard to communicate with both the students and mentors, and I get that, but there are usually minutes of silence until someone finally says something.”
While Fresh Connect may not provide helpful interactions for some students, there have still been some there are some benefits. For some mentors, Fresh Connect has been an efficient way to learn leadership skills and interact with underclassmen who they would normally not. It also provides a unique opportunity to work with and lead a small group.
“Fresh Connect has given me the opportunity to improve my leadership skills through presenting and helping the freshmen navigate high school,” senior Fresh Connect leader Annika Christenson said.
Those who have been mentors for more than one year now have a different perspective on Fresh Connect after being able to experience it both in school and online. There are a lot of differences between the two, and there is now newfound gratitude from the mentors for the program.
“I think Fresh Connect was a good way to learn and get advice from our mentors,” Lehner said. “The best part for me was my mentor because she was someone I could look up to. This year, a lot of our meetings are lesson-based, and I really wish we could focus on having fun conversations and getting to know each other better.”