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 Advisory Sessions Help Change School Culture

As a teacher at La Mesa Blended Community School, Aimee Trevino is committed to creating a positive campus where students’ studies include learning to be part of a community.

One of the many ways Trevino and her colleagues do that is through a program called Advisory.

“It is a great opportunity to build connections on another level with students that’s not academic,” Trevino said.

Advisory has evolved since it was first tested earlier this year. Now everyone at the school, including support staff, is involved, and sessions are more structured.

“We wanted the kids to build connections and culture with all adults on campus,” Trevino said.

Advisory sessions are based on the American School Counselor Association’s Mindsets and Behavior Standards, with each weekly session focused on a certain skill or topic that teachers and students can build upon. An Advisory program, sometimes called Homeroom, is in place at most Momentum Learning community schools, which are operated by the San Diego County Office of Education.

Anthony, a 17-year-old student at the school, said the session on motivation was especially powerful for him.

“You can’t really do anything in life if you’re not motivated and don’t have people motivating you,” he said. “Here, teachers and aides help you as much as possible and try to get you to graduate.”

The 30-minute Advisory sessions at La Mesa Blended typically begin with a classroom circle led by a teacher or another campus adult. On a recent Thursday morning, Campus Youth Advocate Julianna Martinez, herself a former SDCOE student, kicked off Advisory by asking the eight students to share one word that described how they were feeling at that moment. Tired. Chilling. Fantastic. Calm. Stressed. Cool. Then Martinez launched into the topic — improvement — telling the teens about the walk they would take around campus to consider what they would like to see changed.

There was no shortage of suggestions from the students, as they pointed out a spot where extra shade would be nice, where the sidewalks should be powerwashed, or where a school welcome sign would be, well, welcome.

Back in the classroom, the students shared and discussed their improvement ideas with Trevino and Martinez, but the lesson isn’t over.

“We should talk about homework,” Martinez said. “At home, think of one thing that needs improvement, something you can fix or do for yourself.”

Trevino elaborated: “What’s something you can do to improve the living environment that you live in, that you have control over? Maybe you plant a plant, water the grass, clean something. Just like a school, we’re all different components of a community. In order to be part of something, a community, you have to participate. You’re a part of a family and therefore you need to contribute to the family and the household. It’s not about chores. It’s about contributing.”

It sank in, as the students tentatively shared ideas about what they could do. Martinez reminded them that it could be something simple, and that they would share the following week.

Josiah, 17, said he appreciates Advisory because it helps the class get closer, and it teaches them “how to be men and women of society and put in efforts to make our household and society better.” With this lesson on improvement, Josiah was eager to do what he can to make a difference at home, and had plans to do some gardening with his grandfather.