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Fifth graders meeting new challenges thanks to several high school students

An elementary school counselor noticed her students lacking confidence and motivation. That's when she teamed up with a high school teacher to change the story.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — At a Murray Hill Elementary School, a school counselor noticed kids lacking confidence and motivation. That's when she teamed up with a high school teacher to change the story.

Fifth graders at Ruth N. Upson Elementary School and students from Riverside High School are meeting at least once a month as part of a mentorship program.

"I'd never really pictured myself in high school because I was still in elementary," said Daniel Strada. "But once I went, I was like, I cannot wait to go to high school."

Strada's change of tune comes from hanging out with high school senior Jarmarcus Jordan.

"With Daniel, he told us about his behavioral issues when he first started," Jordan said. "But then we started hearing him come in happier and stuff like when we come visit him, how he's doing better with his behavior."

Strada says he's in a better mood when he's in the mentor program, which is now in its third year.

"I had a couple students say to me that they didn't feel like they could go to college or they weren't smart," said Arianne Smith, school counselor at the elementary school. "But then once they went over and saw what it could be for them in high school, how it matters to have good grades and be involved and make good choices, they got really inspired and motivated. And I've seen a change in their behavior in the classroom."

The teachers say it's not just beneficial for the younger kids. Reginald Benyard, social studies teacher at the high school, says his students doing the mentoring are learning skills they need for their class on restorative justice.

"Teaching students how to develop and then maintain relationships is key to success for all students," Benyard said.

First Coast News asked Jordan what he hopes the younger kids get out of the experience.

"I hope they get out they can really do anything they put their mind to," Jordan answered.

Strada looks up to Jordan and the two describe each other as big and little brothers.

"He's confident and he just, he knows what he wants to do," Strada said.

"Do you feel like you know what you want to do more now?" First Coast News asked him.

"Yeah," Strada said confidently. "I want to be a psychiatrist."

Smith and Benyard hope other schools that could benefit from a mentorship program like this will be inspired by their program.

A change of tune...

Watch this kiddo's change of tune happen in 12 seconds... This is thanks to a mentorship program between Duval County Public Schools' Ruth N. Upson Elementary and Riverside High School. Watch First Coast News starting at 5PM for some good news Friday🌞.

Posted by Renata Di Gregorio News on Friday, January 27, 2023

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