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Northside High School students work with younger kids

Roanoke County 'Mentoring Men' program working

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – A Roanoke County mentoring program where high school students teach elementary school students is working.

Jalen Hunt is a senior at Northside High School. He gets up early a few times a month to spend time before school with Xaichon Steelman.

"Being around the kids here has helped me a lot. It helped me be a better people-person. Now I truly enjoy being around kids," said Hunt.

"We work together, we laugh and stuff," said Steelman, a fifth-grader.

They are part of Mentoring Men at Burlington Elementary School in Roanoke County. The high school juniors and seniors are working with the fourth and fifth grade boys encouraging them during STEM activities and having some tough conversations.

"Behavior, what to do when it comes to a bad situation, what's right what's wrong, teaching them about high school," said Hunt.

"We talk about conflict resolution. How do we deal with big feelings in a way that's productive and respectful to both people, and those are tough conversations for elementary school, for high school and even as adults," said Virginia Vann, a Burlington Elementary School counselor who started the program because kids and respond better to peers than adults.

"They're going to be leaders in our community one day, and so helping build those problem-solving skills, relationship skills, watching them step up into leadership roles on their own has been really really cool to watch," said Vann.

"My favorite part is probably teaching them things that I wish I would've learned," said Kyle Deisher, a Northside High School senior who has been with the same student for two years. "I've seen him grow. I think this year, he got class president, which I would've never have thought last year. I think we both have grown together. I enjoy seeing him become the person he is."

"Helps me with school, outside school. It helps me with basically everything," said Steelman.

This year, there's a new mentoring program for girls at Glen Cove.  Vann would like to eventually see a mentoring program at all Roanoke County Schools.

Craig County officials heard about the idea and plan on adding it in the county too.