Ronan LaRoche was falling behind with his Geometry assignments and couldn’t understand the graphing problems in his homework. As his mother looked for tutors to help, she learned about Westerville North High School’s Warrior2Warrior program, where students provide academic assistance to their peers in need.
They signed up for the program where LaRoche, a sophomore, was paired with junior Anna Whiting. She quickly got to work with LaRoche, meeting with him virtually two to three times a week to help with homework and concepts he couldn’t understand. The way she broke down math problems and explained the solutions made an immediate impact.
“After the first couple of meetings, it really started to click for me,” he said. “It has been all positive.”
It’s the third year of the Warrior2Warrior program, which was created by WNHS alumnus Kendall Wright and is led and staffed by current students. Those struggling in their classes could meet one-on-one with peer mentors to review lessons and go over homework and class assignments.
With students working remotely under the Blended learning model this year, the demand for mentors has risen, said Emma Weisgerber, one of the two WNHS students leading the program this year.
“People are having more trouble than they used to,” she said.
Weisgerber and Emily Voneman, the other program leader, had to adapt to the constantly changing environment since being named the Warrior2Warrior leaders last spring — just before the state closed schools at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They worked remotely to develop plans and start recruiting mentors for the current school year.
Since the start of the school year, mentors have met with their mentees virtually or outdoors to align with health and social distancing guidelines.
Last week, Voneman and Weisgerber launched a Homework Hotline for students who may not need a peer mentor but have a quick question on a homework assignment. The hotline, where mentors take shifts at a virtual meeting room in ZOOM, is available to students for at least an hour every day.
Wright, who graduated in 2019, started the Warrior2Warrior program as part of her Global Scholars project in 2018. She received a grant from the Westerville Education Foundation that helped convert a storage space in the high school’s learning center into a Warrior2Warrior room where mentors could meet with mentees. The student leaders in 2019-20 school year — Marin Kalista, Morgan Kalista and Gregory Wirtz — applied for and received additional grant dollars for iPads, whiteboard tables, markers and other supplies to continue developing the room.
The pandemic has limited students’ ability to meet in groups so mentors haven’t been able to use the space this year because of social distancing guidelines. But that hasn’t hindered the mentors.
Whiting said working with LaRoche via ZOOM has been effective. He can screen share his homework so she can see the math problems he’s struggling with or they’ll review lessons using the free online education courses through Kahn Academy.
“It’s interesting to see how it’s changed from last year where I was in the library or reading a book with someone to meeting someone online,” she said. “It really opens up our availability and the time we can do mentorships.”
For students seeking academic help, Warrior2Warrior provides them with personalized attention with a peer who has an understanding of the class and can frame it in a way they can understand. For mentors, the program has helped reinforce previous lessons and taught them how to work with their peers.
“One of the most rewarding things is when it finally clicks for them and seeing their grade go up and up and up,” Voneman said. “It’s nice to see that I actually made a difference.”
Weisgerber joined the program to be involved in her school community.
“I feel like this community has given a lot to me and I want to give back to that community,” she said.
Ultimately, Warrior2Warrior was designed to be more than a peer tutoring program, said Beth Baryon, librarian and director of WNHS’ learning center who also serves as the program’s advisor.
“It’s about building a student community and having people at school that care about them and their academics.”