“Every middle school child should have someone in their corner”, says Sean Wieting, 6th grade teacher and newly appointed high school football coach at Lincoln Lutheran Middle and High School. “And that’s why Warrior Walk was created.”
It is typical for middle school students to have a dip in confidence as they navigate this transitional phase. They are faced with different routines, shifts in friendships and finding where they “fit” in a new environment with new people.
As a previous mentor with Tom Osborne’s TEAMMATES program, Wieting had seen the positive impact of mentoring and decided “we need to do a similar program here so that every middle school student has an older Warrior to walk with.”
But where does one even begin this type of undertaking? Wieting took his idea to the school’s Community Outreach Leadership Team, aka COLT, to get the ball rolling. The purpose of COLT is to find and implement ways to serve others, a core value at Lincoln Lutheran.
Wieting and his fellow 6th grade teacher Brooklyn Schulte, along with the seven Lincoln Lutheran students on COLT, worked together to launch a small pilot program during the ‘21-’22 school year. “We matched nine middle school students with nine high school students,” says Wieting. “It was wildly successful. Not only did it help the middle school students, but the high school mentors also reaped benefits.”
Here are some quotes from the high school mentors who participated in the pilot program:
“When I look at my weekly schedule and see mentoring on Thursdays, it brightens my day. I’m not the most outgoing person, so mentoring has helped me with starting conversations and learning to talk to others.”
“Even though some kids might not look like they need someone, they really do. Mentoring has made me think more about what other people might be going through.”
I love what mentoring has done for me! I have built a friendship with my younger mentee that I am so glad to have! I am beyond happy to be part of this program.
I want to be the friend to my mentee that I would have liked to have when I was her age.”
With the success of the pilot program, it was decided that ‘22-’23 would be the year that EVERY 7th and 8th grade student at Lincoln Lutheran would be matched with a mentor - 107 middle schoolers to be exact. Wieting confesses he was nervous there wouldn’t be enough volunteers from the sophomore through senior classes, but instead, he was amazed when received “yeses” from 95 percent of that section of the student body.
From there, the high school volunteers received mentor training in communication, trust, emotional intelligence and relationship building. A match committee analyzed pairing information from the students to ensure they were matched with someone who had similar interests.
Finally, after months of anticipation, students gathered in the gym for Match Day. Mentees lined up facing outward. Mentors lined up behind them. On the count of 3, the mentees could turn around and meet their mentor. Immediately, students were hugging and high-fiving and getting to know one another.
Mentors meet with their mentees every week during a teacher supervised period of the school day. They are free to choose whatever they want to do together. Some choose board games, art projects, shooting hoops or they can just hang out and talk if they prefer.
“I am so proud of this program and the group effort from the Community Outreach Leadership Team to get it off the ground. To me, it represents what it really means to be a Warrior”, says Wieting. “A Warrior is not just our school mascot. It means more than that. Being a true Warrior means serving others, and that’s what students are doing in this program. They serve by listening. They serve by just being there.”