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by CJ Lynch ’20

Twelve seniors at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy were given the opportunity to mentor the incoming freshman on a five day adventure in the woods for their first week of high school. 

Matthew Norcini, SCH Head of Upper School, came up with the idea to give SCH seniors an Outward Bound leadership opportunity. This year was the second year seniors played a role in mentoring freshman on Outward Bound and the feedback so far has been exceptional. 

“I wanted a leadership opportunity for students for whom outward bound was a meaningful experience,” Norcini said. “I wanted to give seniors the opportunity to reflect on their own leadership style and to grow as a leader.” 

Before getting to lead the freshman, the seniors needed some training. In preparation for this Trip, seniors had to go through an interview process, a ropes course, and a five day trip in the Delaware Water Gap during the last week of July. While at the ropes course, the seniors learned how to be a leader and participated in team bonding. During the last training session in July seniors put the finishing touches on their knowledge and preparation for leading the freshman. 

“During our five day backpacking trip in July we learned leadership skills, how to tie knots, and how to handle ourselves with the freshmen,” said Morgan Brown, SCH senior and Outward Bound Mentor.   

After their last training session at the Delaware Water Gap, the seniors were ready to guide the freshmen on their first week of high school. 

On September 3, 2019 their journey began. This excursion took place on the Appalachian Trail and the Delaware Water Gap where the students hiked, camped, and bonded with each other. Senior Jake Carpenter compared his mentoring experience with his experience freshman.

“As a freshman I thought it was a good program but I wanted a second shot so I wanted to be a leader and had a much better experience this time around,” said senior Jake Carpenter. “I wish I had a senior mentor because I felt how the kids looked up to me and felt more comfortable having me there because I am a student just like them and I did it two more times than them.” 

Compared to years prior, the addition of senior mentors has greatly affected how freshmen acclimate to Outward Bound and high school. To freshmen, having a student with them who has already been on Outward Bound and has gone through three years of the same high school they will be attending is very comforting. It can also help give freshmen a better idea of what to expect for school compared to not having a senior on your trip. Having senior mentors also impacts student life after Outward Bound much differently than those who went on Outward Bound without seniors. 

“I wish I had a senior mentor because I felt how the kids looked up to me and felt more comfortable having me there because I am a student just like them and I did it two more times than them/””

— Jake Carpenter, SCH Senior Outward Bound Mentor

“Seniors are still having an impact on the freshmen from their groups. The biggest difference now is you go to Outward Bound and you come back and your facilitators disappear into the world, but the seniors allow for the experience to continue into the school,” Norcini said.  

After Outward Bound, seniors continue to interact with their freshmen and further their relationships with them. Having these senior-freshman relationships that continue into school teach freshmen how to effectively build long lasting relationships in high school. Nearly a month after the trip, seniors leader Morgan Brown still meets with members of her Outward Bound group.

“The freshman from my group and I are really good friends, I’m having lunch with them tomorrow,” Brown said last week.

Senior leaders are not only used for helping incoming freshmen. They also take a lot from this experience. Senior Morgan Brown learned the importance of “branching out”.

“I learned to take risks and to just go for it, I took a leap and did it and I ended up really enjoying myself,” Brown said. “While we were out there I branched out and got to know them. I took risks to chat with them while hiking. I learned to just go for stuff and you will have a really great outcome.” 

The Outward Bound experience is one that is out of the comfort zone for most people, especially teenagers who don’t yet know each other. Having senior mentors alleviates some of the nervousness of the freshmen and helps them become comfortable with acclimating to high school quickly. 

“Let’s say if you were a new freshman and you get to school and you don’t know anyone. Then you would have that upperclassmen senior that you had a great connection with on outward bound to guide you through it and just be a friend there for you,” Brown said. 

Norcini understands how valuable a senior mentor can be to a freshman and how awesome an experience it is for seniors for whom Outward was a meaningful journey. 

When asked if senior mentors had a positive impact on the incoming freshman’s Outward Bound experience and transition to high school, Norcini said: “Every kid who has a more positive transition to high school because of this program, is a kid who wouldn’t have without it. Any positive change is a good change.”

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