While Helping Hands: A Students for Students Movement INC is geared towards providing academic support to underrepresented students and schools, we have asked by many schools to engage in casual conversation with their students. At first glance, these social interactions may seem like arbitrary mechanism to help students become accustomed to their tutor/helper, but there is a much greater importance underlying these exchanges. The administrative staff at our partner schools have pointed out that these social interactions introduce their students to new ideas/diverse perspectives (e.g. high school, careers, extracurricular activities), give their students role-models and motivate their students to dream big.
As someone who works with the eighth grade students at Great Lakes Academy, I have tried my best to converse with students about high school and their future goals. Recently, I have engaged in conversations regarding the social environment in high school, what it is like to have greater class options, juggling extracurricular activities with school work, how to receive academic and emotional support and even what it is like think about college. In doing so, I am able to give the students advice and insight that will help benefit them as they enter high school. I believe that through these conversations, the students are provided with greater clarity and confidence as they approach this new and intimidating experience.
Additionally, I use these social interactions to motivate the students to have confidence in themselves and dream big. In the face of great challenges, I think that people too often push the idea of thinking "realistically" instead of "ambitiously". A problem with this mentality is that the individual is placing limitation on oneself before even trying. While cliche, I like to refer to the quote "Shoot for the moon, if you miss you will land among the stars". I like to engage students in conversations about their dreams and ambitions and let them know that these goals are well within reach if they work hard to achieve them. This benefit is often overlooked, but I think that letting the students know that you believe in them, and that affirmation, can do so much.
Overall, it seems like these social interactions are what you make of them. While their impact is not directly explicit, I think that they can be a great tool to connect to students, inspire them to dream and engage them in the learning process.