Mentoring Group Gives Graduation for One

New Palo Alto group recognizes graduate
By: Todd Martin
A middle school coach determined to mentor girls at her school managed to recruit a team of leaders and started a brand-new group just before a global pandemic brought it to a crashing halt – or not.
Unwilling to let the unexpected obstacle of a school year cut short hinder her efforts, Palo Alto Middle School teacher and coach Elise Kea took her group, called INTL (It’s Never Too Late) online and worked to maintain connection.
“Like a lot of teachers, I was bothered that I was missing time with kids,” she said. “Many of them really liked the time with mentors.”
The newly formed group, focused on encouraging teen girls to make healthy choices and work toward specific goals met just twice before spring break and the long interruption.
The determined coach went to work recording videos and sending out writing prompts to help the INTL members continue to learn.
While many of the sixth- through eighth-grade girls stayed in touch with Kea and other mentors, one in particular rose to the challenge and completed every assignment on time leading to the group’s planned graduation ceremony May 15.
The girls mentor group, which Kea formed and named said it was especially important to honor her star student’s determination in the midst of so much uncertainty.
So, Friday, May 15, as scheduled, sixth-grader Aubrey Young became the very first graduate of the INTL mentorship program in a virtual ceremony that included Kea, several of her teachers, her principal and a special guest – Ann Farris, one of the group’s presenters and supporters.
“I really wanted to celebrate her,” Kea said, explaining the need for going forward with a virtual graduation for one. “Those goals needed to be celebrated.”
The sixth-grader, now soon to be a seventh-grader said she felt special to have her own celebration.
Palo Alto Principal Kernisha Hill and KISD Chief College, Career and Military Readiness Officer Nancy Duran joined Farris, a former KISD deputy superintendent in the ceremony, all mentors.
“It was amazing,” said Young. “They made posters and talked about me. It made me happy.”
The INTL group, she said, was important to her because she likes learning new things. “It helps you be more successful in life,” she said. “I didn’t want to give it up.”
“We reminded Aubrey of her significance and her strength, and she was recognized for her growth, especially in the area of communication,” Duran said of the ceremony for the sixth-grader.
“I think she really needed this,” said Kea. “The interaction was important. Now, she is going to be a little spokesperson for us.”
Young said she is excited to get back to school and her friends as soon as possible. As a new leader, she said her message to peers is clear – “never give up when something gets hard.”