Hamilton High School students and parents trying to prevent school violence and to encourage students into attending college can take HEART.
HEART (Human Efforts Aimed at Relating Together) is a student mediation program that brings young people together from different ethnic and religious backgrounds to help classmates resolve conflict through dialogue instead of violence.
Dr. Mary Reid, assistant principal and program sponsor, is a trained mediator through the Los Angeles Bar Association. She says the program lead to a significant change in campus climate.
Initially, she said, students were confused about fitting in at high school after realizing they had no significant goals. Their communication skills were weak, and they were uncertain about how to talk to teachers about their grades or their own expectations. Finding their voice through HEART helped them to outline a plan, and to enhance their future.
Hamilton HEART high school students, under the leadership of seniors and HEART co-presidents Jennifer Garcia and Andrew Shoukry, also hear encouragement to attend college. For Andrew, the program was a lifeline.
“Through my 10th-grade year, I was mixed in with the wrong crowd,” Andrew said. “Although I knew to stay away from the trouble they would try to include me in. I found myself distancing myself away from them. I grew to be lonely and I was lost for direction.”
Thanks to a friend, he was introduced to the HEART program and to Dr. Reid, who became his mentor. The group’s positive response sealed the relationship. He has been a key member ever since.
“I want to be here to show these kids that they don't have to be Einstein to pursue what they love and be great at it,” Andrew said. “They just need to push their limits and see just how far that will take them.”
HEART members also help middle school students, becoming their high school mentors. “The HEART students basically share the mistakes that they made and give their mentees other choices that worked in order to change their lives around,” Dr. Reid said.
Working with freshman and sophomores who need assistance adds a sense of accomplishment, Jennifer said. “HEART not only helps the students struggling, but it also helps the mentors because we gain this wonderful feeling and a sense of who we are as well.”
Dr. Reid feels the program has evolved, teaching students how to cope with not only high school, but adulthood, too.
“Change is difficult. We all need help transitioning and adjusting throughout our lives,” Dr. Reid said. “Learning how to communicate ideas in a thoughtful manner is a key to success.”