Above, Foshay Learning Center mentors inspire and instruct elementary school students through the nonprofit partner, Press Friends.

By Ashley Martinez Madrid, a senior at James A. Foshay Learning Center

Fifth-grader Alexis Mejia and her teacher, Jasmine Tigolo, celebrate at a Press Friends publishing party.

Press Friends is a nonprofit program in which high school students mentor elementary school students in writing several articles over the course of two semesters. At Foshay Learning Center, we have held four to five workshops each semester, guiding elementary school students as they write articles on a recent book they’ve read, a movie they’ve watched or a school field trip they’ve enjoyed.

Whether the younger students need clarity on how to transform first-person into third-person or find another word for “funny,” their mentors are at their disposal. Mentors carefully read over the articles and edit them to make sure all words are spelled correctly and that the articles are comprehensive.

Press Friends has been successful in helping elementary students expand their writing potential. The program ensures that mentors are equipped with the skills and tactics needed to maximize the support they provide. Mentors attend a training and are provided tools to help their young counterparts who may be struggling with writer’s block. Their confidence level increases as they help students improve.

Senior Nicolas Garcia helps fourth-grader Michael Reyes celebrate a job well done.

A showcase and publication meeting is held at the end of each semester allowing mentees to see their growth as writers and for staff and administrators to see progress among all students involved. Mentors gain a sense of accomplishment seeing their time and effort reflected in a final product. And parents have the opportunity to see their children’s work in a published format.

In a recent publication ceremony, one mother commented on how much her two daughters had improved, noting that both had expanded their vocabularies and participated more in class since joining the program. She thanked the mentors for “taking the time to sit down and read through their work with them.”

Foshay Principal Tracy Triplett-Murray acknowledged the relationship between the program and the school’s goal of daily improvement among students.

“When you’re writing and you’re engaged and a part of this process, you are getting better,” Murray told students. “And I promise you – you may not see the growth today or tomorrow, but you will see it in the long run. You’ll see it when you’re getting ready for college. You’re going to remember being a part of a program like Press Friends.”