Thayer junior creates Middle School mentorship program

Thayer junior creates Middle School mentorship program

Teddy Cohen ‘24 is busy charting his own successful academic journey at Thayer Academy, but he’s not too busy to help fellow students along the way. 

As a student with dyslexia, Cohen knows the particular challenges faced in the classroom for those who learn differently. Recently, he recruited about 10 of his Upper School peers to form a mentorship program which assists Middle School students addressing those same challenges. 

“This is his initiative,” said Molly Wheeler, associate director of the Hale Learning Center, which provides additional resources and support to Thayer students as they meet the Academy’s rigorous academic program. “Teddy sought me out. He understands the loneliness that can sometimes accompany learning differently and feeling ‘othered’ because of it. Thayer is a challenging learning environment. The Upper School students, for the most part, have come to understand how they learn, but for younger students, navigating the academic realm can be daunting.” 

In November, Cohen visited the Middle School to introduce the program. He was joined that day by fellow mentors Nate Austin-Johnstone ‘24 and Cate Devaney ‘24. Cohen and the other mentors seek to bridge the gap between the Upper School and Middle School so that younger students feel an increased sense of connection to the older students across Hobart Avenue. The mentors will do this via several “Lunch Bunch” meetings where friendships can develop organically among students. Later, Upper School and Middle School students will pair off as “study buddies.” 

For Cohen, the driving force behind the project is a simple one. 

“I want to help kids feel less alone as they navigate learning challenges similar to those I faced as a young student,” he said. “I want to provide support to improve their learning experience.” 

The goals of the mentorship program are twofold. First, older students will serve as valuable tutors, offering study skills they may have only recently learned themselves. Second, mentors will be available to lend an ear as mentees face the sometimes awkward transition years of Middle School on top of the particular challenges of their various learning styles. 

“The mentors want to reach out to students about the logistics and strategies that support their unique learning styles,” said Wheeler, “but they also want to address the social-emotional component of learning differently.” 

Wheeler, who has worked in education for 15 years and at Thayer for the past decade, noted Cohen’s enthusiasm for the initiative.

“He wants to grow this,” Wheeler said. “The level of maturity and thoughtfulness in proposing this program really sets Teddy apart. I’m proud of his passion, and I’m not sure he’s even aware of the legacy he’s building here at Thayer.” 

Upper School mentors

Ready, willing, and able to serve as mentors are, from left: Teddy Cohen ‘24, Nate ​​Austin-Johnstone ‘24, and Cate Devaney ‘24.

The trio and other Upper School students are working with the Hale Learning Center to support Middle School students with learning differences.


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