Harrisites’ take on the Big Sib Little Sib Program

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By Melinda Wang, Kate Estevez, and Alisha Ansari, Staff Writers

To inspire school spirit and togetherness, Townsend Harris kickstarted a Big Sib Little Sib mentorship program this past year, engaging students across all grades. The program paired one or two freshmen or incoming sophomores with a student that has been in THHS for at least one year. 

Little Sibs and Big Sibs are required to complete a few activities together each month, ranging from holiday festivities to movie nights. Sibs schedule meetings on their own time through meeting platforms such as Zoom to complete these activities and develop their relationships. To monitor the progress of the Sibs, the program leaders use Google Classroom where proof of the completion of each activity is submitted. 

With an irregular first year of remote learning, incoming freshmen and sophomores may have felt more disconnected than ever from their school community. The founders of the program juniors Danielle Chiu, Elsa Oreen, Zarif Rahman, Jessica Jimenez, Julie Li, Kate Romero, and the program advisor, Coordinator of Student Activities Sarah Loew joined forces to rectify that. Secretary Kate said, “We wanted to ensure our incoming students would experience the smoothest transition possible into high school.” Vice President Zarif  said he wanted to “make the freshmen feel truly like Harrisites [with] personalized help available to them in such a difficult time.”

Freshman Partha Dhar said, “Advice concerning clubs [given by my Big Sib] has been really valuable to me. I didn’t join…earlier in the year, but my Big Sib showed me that clubs are very important, even during an online remote year.” Freshman Sneha Paul said her Big Sib answered a lot of questions about the teachers and classes she had. “I remember for music [class], she helped me realize that improvement happens when you are actually enjoying the process of learning,” Sneha said. Freshman Illana Allen said the program has helped her adjust to THHS virtually in the best way possible. “Having a connection to older students who went to the school that you are now entering is very reassuring,” she said. 

This program has created the opportunity for incoming students and resident Harrisites to create a meaningful bond. Freshman Minyuan Cheng said that “showing each other our dolls has been one of the most unforgettable moments” she has shared with her Big Sib. 

Although the Big Sibs in this program are also experiencing an atypical time, they are still honoring the Ephebic Oath and serving their community through helping these incoming students. “I am glad that I can help freshmen during a rough transition into remote learning,”  junior Asha Suganthan said. “It’s been really fun reminiscing about my own freshman year… in order to help guide their experiences.” Junior Maimuna Muntaha reflected on her interactions with her Little Sibs. “It’s been very interesting yet confusing as well due to all the scheduling conflicts and last minute issues that arise,” she said. “We have been [liking] the activities and my favorite one would be when we watched Criminal Minds together because we all seemed to enjoy it.”

 Senior Katie Hsu said that “the Two Truths One Lie activity was especially fun because there were so many quirky and unusual stories that were shared.”  This was a way for the students to bond and find out more information about each other in an informal way. Sophomore Arietta Xylas said, “I love my Little Sib(s), they have been super great and cooperative. We always complete the monthly activities together and every call gets better than the last. We are very comfortable with each other and I can definitely see us becoming much better friends in the future.” 

With new relationships forming between mentors and mentees, the program off to a smooth start. Zarif said, “I see Sibs submit their activity photos, and they seem to be putting in a lot of time and effort.” Kate said, “It made me really happy to see bonds actually created between the Little Sibs and their Big Sibs.” 

Many are thankful for the support this program has provided through these uncertain times. “I think this program will be a permanent fixture in the THHS community because of its effectiveness and popularity. The Mentorship Program Board is extremely dedicated, caring, and organized. With nearly 500 big and little sibs currently involved, there’s also a ton of participation and enthusiasm,” Mrs. Loew said.