Piedmont Affinity Mentorship

Piedmont Identity Affinity Mentorship logo

District Wide Program: The Piedmont Affinity Mentorship Nurtures Younger Students in PUSD

All children yearn to belong and connect with people like them. Our goal is to offer students who come from diverse backgrounds to have a strong sense of belonging and provide role models to look up to and learn from. Whether it is racial, cultural, religious, neurodiverse or gender expansive backgrounds, we want students in Piedmont to have role models that represent important aspects of their identity.  

The Piedmont Affinity Mentorship is a district-wide course taught at the High School level that integrates connection and mentorship to elementary and middle school students with similar backgrounds. Parents have the option to enroll their child in this year-long program that connects students from similar backgrounds.  Our HS mentors encourage, inspire and build academic and social confidence in younger students. 

The program was started in August 2020, by Jean Takazawa, Havens Elementary staff, and Ina Bendich, Restorative Justice Consultant. Ms. Takazawa noticed how often students approached her wanting to talk about their similarities. This observation led to development of a survey at Havens Elementary led by Principal Anne Dolid that asked parents about their identities and how the school community could support them. The response from parents was so positive and strong that the program was expanded and offered at all three elementary schools within the first year.

Ms. Takazawa and Ms. Bendich worked with students from two HS clubs: Advocacy for Asian Americans and the Black Student Union, to identify HS students interested in mentoring. Within the first two years, 32 HS students were matched with 77 tri-school elementary and PMS students. Our HS mentors receive ongoing training and coursework in how to conduct a support circle, community building, DEI and Social Justice training as they work in pairs with students matched based on self-identified affinities. 

“The parents of the mentees realize this is extremely important for their families,” said Ms. Takazawa. “It means everything for their child to have somebody that identifies similarly as a role model.” Ms. Takazawa added that it is important to give students the chance to gather in affinity groups. “The parents of our mentees recognize that this is such an important part of their child’s development as a whole person.” 

“The HS students in our program all had experiences in elementary school that they could talk about that made them feel alone and isolated and like they were “othered”, and they still harbor those feelings,” said Ms. Bendich. “They said very clearly: we don’t want our elementary peers to have those same experiences, or if they have had them, we would like to give them space to be able to talk about how that made them feel. The mentors have done more than just mentor. We have students going into classes and doing workshops on race. They did an allyship workshop for the fourth grade. They did a lesson on the “N word” for eighth graders – it’s beyond just mentoring.” 

One 5th grader who participated in the program said: “I’m grateful that I got introduced to the Mentorship Program because it has educated me about Asian culture and backgrounds. My mentors have been kind and patient throughout my sessions.” 

Ms. Bendich explained that the benefit of the program is not only for the elementary and middle school students, but also for HS students serving as mentors.  “I’ve worked with HS students for a long time and what I know to be true is that when they can do something that actually has an impact they can see, there’s something so profound about what that does for their own self-confidence and for their own leadership skills.” 

For more info and video testimony:

Piedmont Identity and Affinity Mentors Program At-A-Glance

Mentor Video

Havens Elementary Mentorship Program

 

For more information, contact:

Jean Takazawa

jtakazawa@piedmont.k12.ca.us

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