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Teaming Up for 9th Grade Success

Teaming Up for 9th Grade Success

The transition into 9th grade is an exciting time for students, but we understand that at times it can also feel overwhelming, with tons of new information, options and questions. At Burnsville High School (BHS), programs and supports have intentionally been put in place to help make the 9th grade transition and experience successful. Through peer mentorship, a 9th grade introduction class, meaningful connections with an advisor and the wrap-around support of the student success team, we hope each of our 9th grade students feels a sense of community, value and support during their journey at BHS. 

“We want every 9th grade student and their family to feel like they belong,” said Chris Bellmont, Principal of Student Support and Family Engagement. “Each student who walks through our doors should know they have people who believe in them, be aware of the opportunities at BHS and have access to all the tools they need to be successful.”

Peer Mentorship

Students open up and feel the most comfortable asking questions to other students, which is why we have multiple built-in opportunities for current high school students to connect with incoming 9th graders. 

“We know if our older students are reaching out and connecting with our younger students that it has win-win benefits for everyone involved,” Bellmont said.

Each year, more than 100 11th and 12th grade students volunteer and are trained to be Link Crew Leaders. This spring, they visited with 8th grade advisory classes to share about their high school experience and answer questions. Leaders and 9th graders will continue to build connections at high school orientation in the fall and have ongoing opportunities to connect throughout the school year. 

These opportunities give students a chance to make real connections with their peers, feel comfortable at BHS and know they have upperclassmen who they can always reach out to for support and guidance. 

“Mentorship is built into what we do here at BHS,” said Bellmont. “With connections starting in middle school to the Link Crew experience during ninth grade to all of our student athletic, activity and affinity groups, students are constantly building authentic relationships with those around them.” 

9th Grade Introduction Class

Each 9th grader participates in Success One91 during first semester, a class focused on helping 9th graders identify and develop skills that will help them be successful throughout their time at BHS. Students will learn how to navigate BHS – both the physical building and the resources and opportunities within it. The class dives into specific skills such as organization, note taking strategies and digital literacy, but also focuses on self-discovery and exploration. 

Through interest and personality tests, students continue to identify their skills and passions and what Pathways courses might help them discover future career fields. During the self-discovery process, students also get a chance to know their classmates on a deeper level. When each student’s unique life experiences are brought to the table, honored and affirmed, it leads to a stronger community as students learn to appreciate each other’s differences.

Meaningful Connections

Many of the skills and learning opportunities that take place in Success One91 are continued throughout the high school journey during Advisory. Advisors help students engage in Pathways, activities and other opportunities based on their strengths, passions and dreams.

“We want every 9th grade student and their family to feel like they belong. Each student who walks through our doors should know they have people who believe in them, be aware of the opportunities at BHS and have access to all the tools they need to be successful.”

- Chris Bellmont, Principal of Student Support and Family Engagement

Students go to Advisory once a week and are with the same advisor and group of students throughout their four years. All licensed staff in the building get to serve as advisors, typically allowing for smaller classes and more meaningful connections. 

“Their advisor will be in their corner, helping them feel like they belong and are worthy, are aware of the opportunities around them, and have access to the supports they need,” Bellmont said. 

Student Success Team

The last piece of the 9th grade transition supports are what we call our Student Success Team. This is a team of experts ranging from counselors to liaisons to nurses to principals who specialize in 9th grade students. They meet on a regular basis to analyze student data and, when necessary, coordinate additional support and interventions for students. 

“Our success team has different levels of expertise and brilliance,” Bellmont said. “They constantly review data, look at all systems of support available and determine how best to positively impact students.” 

The 9th grade Student Success Team includes: 

  • Jay Lepper, Associate Principal,
  • Angela Markham, School Counselor,
  • Michelle Henderson, School Counselor,
  • Joe Meyer, Dean of Students,
  • T.J. Hewitt, Social Worker,
  • Courtnee Jackson Floback, Liaison/Advocate,
  • Kourtney Beaulieu, Licensed School Nurse,

“Each of these programs plays an essential role in helping incoming 9th graders feel a sense of community and value while learning the skills for academic success at BHS,” said Bellmont.