(Editor's Note: Tiffany Mercuri is a senior at North Plainfield High School and an intern for TAPinto North Plainfield.) 

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Gathered on Upper Krause Field is the freshmen class of North Plainfield High School (NPHS), guided by a select group of juniors and seniors. As laughter filled the fresh September air, each student was able to participate in exciting group activities. There was a smile on everyone’s face as they bonded and created new friendships on a day they call Freshmen Field Day.

This is what the NPHS Canuck Mentors program is all about.

Sign Up for E-News

Advised by Jennifer Sloan and Christine Mattei, the program works to help incoming freshmen transition from middle to high school. Each North Plainfield school exhibits a dedication to making students active and involved members of their community through other extracurricular activities, such as the Heroes and Cool Kids program and Interact Club. 

However, as students leave middle school and enter high school, it can become a difficult experience. The mentors involved with the Canuck Mentors program have the opportunity to engage in activities that bring together the freshmen class and the mentors get to spend quality time getting to know each of their own mentees.

How is a program like this possible?  It starts with the mentors being assigned in groups to a freshmen homeroom. After bonding at Freshmen Field Day, mentors have the chance to meet with their mentees one-on-one during meetings held once per month. 

Advisor Sloan describes her goals for the future of the program, saying, “My wish is to maintain our level of involvement while continuously seeking opportunities to get connected.”  She said that the program has grown exponentially over the past few years.

Senior mentor Jasmine Chavez remembers a time during her junior year when her and other mentors were able to participate in decorating North Plainfield’s Vermule Community Center for the holidays. “It was really a great experience, that we could involve ourselves in a community service that was also fun and new,” Chavez said.  

Chavez, reminiscing on her mentor experience, added, “The two years I have been a mentor have been exciting because I get to share my time in high school with the freshmen in a way that I couldn’t do if I just had class with them.” She explains the bittersweet emotion she feels when she, as a mentor, forms real friendships with the mentees she has but then having to leave them later on. Chavez said she is determined to continue the relationship she has with her mentees she had even beyond high school by staying in contact with them as they continue high school.

Just as Chavez has formed friendships with her mentees, the mentees also form bonds with their mentors.  “A lot of the time I went to my mentor for help with homework, friends, and even teachers,” Allison Gamez, a sophomore at North Plainfield High School, said about the guidance she received from her mentor during her freshmen year. “It was awesome to have someone who went through their freshmen year the same way I was going through it.”

The NPHS Canuck Mentors program, for which Nicholas Pisani and Claudia Orozco currently serve as co-presidents, highlights not only community service and mentoring but also the exceeding list of exciting activities that keep the students engaged. One activity includes the annual mentor trip where, each December, the senior mentors are invited on a three-day, two-night camping trip where they learn leadership skills. According to Sloan, the mentor trip continues to be the most memorable experience for her because she ‘loves watching the seniors use their critical thinking and leadership training tasks, not to mention watching them come together to celebrate their differences.’

The mentors program actively keeps its members up-to-date with the school and the community, bonding them with each other and their mentees as they set out every year to be the best examples and leaders they can be.

Freshmen Myles Pacla expresses her feelings towards entering freshmen year with a scared state-of-mind as it is the next big step. “Having a mentor is a positive thing because they influence you to do better,” said Pacla. “The program is beneficial as the members set good examples and a foundation for the freshmen to start the year on.” Pacla added that the mentor she has this year, senior Samantha Jeannot (who also happens to be an intern for TAPinto North Plainfield) has become a friend while helping and providing valuable advice when obstacles arise.

TAPinto North Plainfield, Green Brook and Watchung is free and published daily; sign up to get all the news as it happens at www.tapinto.net/enews and follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TAPintoNPGBW and on Twitter @tapintonpgbw