Kids stuff: Peer-to-peer mentoring

Jasmine Middleton; photo by Katherine Brooks Photography

Editor’s note: The following Q&A is part of Xpress‘ annual Kids Issues. 

Jasmine Middleton, head of sustainability at OpenDoors Asheville, discusses the launch of AVL Rise, the compassion that tutors bring to their work and the importance of exposing young children to role models who look like them.

2022 was AVL Rise’s first year. The program recruits, trains and hires high school students to serve as tutors to struggling early elementary school readers. How do the tutors like their work? 

Depending on their circumstances, most high school students are interested in well-paying jobs, learning that improves their GPA, and internships and experiences that make them stand out in their college applications. AVL Rise tutors don’t have to choose between being paid, learning and deepening their commitment to college. They get it all! Our students enjoy being seen as “working” adults, but they all say that the job doesn’t feel like work to them. They love being mentors, and some say it changes the way they view themselves.

What impresses you most about the youths you work with?

We refer to our high schoolers as tutors and our elementary schoolers as students. I am impressed with the compassion the tutors give the students and the fact that they are not shy. Our students and tutors are not afraid to be themselves when they’re together. When tutors share their stories and talents, it empowers the young students to do the same. We train the tutors so they feel confident, and then they naturally make the connection with their students, and the mentoring magic happens.

Why is peer-to-peer mentoring so important for students of color?

BIPOC peer-to-peer mentoring builds trust. The peer-to-peer model starts with myself, as a leader of color, and my actions then influence our other staff members. It’s a lot of responsibility. Role modeling can have a positive or negative effect and has an “I can be like you” influence. This influence trickles down to our tutors and students in a representational way that doesn’t always have to be spoken. Generally, people can only be what they can see, and we take this very seriously at OpenDoors. It’s important for our students to see people that look like them as leaders, so they can believe they too have the potential to positively influence and lead.


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One thought on “Kids stuff: Peer-to-peer mentoring

  1. Voirdire

    AVL Rise sounds like a complete winner for everyone involved …an awesome program that is really making a difference. Thanks to everyone involved in this endeavor! So cool. So important. Yay!

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