Project Win Mentorship Program for At-Risk Youth

By: Emma Hannan

Students from Toni Bucynski’s Medical I and Medical II classes at Huntingdon Area High School class became Forces for Health in their community by identifying problems in their communities, designing solutions, and then enacting their ideas as real-life projects. The students presented and reflected on their experiences during the high school’s Med Fair on May 2, 2018.

A team of students , pictured above, in Ms. Bucynski’s Med I class knows that it is never too early to become a Force For Health and to start thinking about how to make lasting lifestyle changes to lead healthy lifestyles. Sofia, Gabby, Kaitlyn, Kayden, and Tori, all juniors at HAHS, decided to empower the youth of Huntingdon County to begin making conscious decisions to benefit their health. As part of Project Win, the name of the HAHS student’s initiative, the high school students created a regular mentorship program with local at-risk middle school students to help them develop strong academic habits and to manage any anxiety the middle school students had about entering high school.

The project was a clear success from the start, but HAHS students continued to identify problems that they could address as part of the  mentorship program. After the recent loss of a classmate at the high school, HAHS students decided to add a mental wellness component to their meetings with the middle school students. The high schoolers did not want the younger students to have to wait for a tragedy to learn how to care for their own mental well-being and to recognize signs of mental illness in their peers.

The addition of the mental health component was a great learning experience for the mentors and mentees alike. In addition to generally learning how to facilitate a mentorship program, the HAHS students cited the mental health education they acquired through their preparation for meeting with the middle schoolers was an invaluable component of their experience.

The mentorship program was so successful that the original founders are looking to continue the project into the next academic year, and have thought about the possibilities of expanding the program to include more mentors from the high school. A survey that the high school students gave to their mentees at the middle school shows that all students felt they gained something meaningful from the partnership.

It's never too early to start thinking about how to make lasting lifestyle changes to lead to healthier lives.

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