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TitanUp: Program to support students

Written by Deiana Hristov

High school. Four years of your life filled with friends, tests, stress, pride, cheering at football games and hanging out with your friends instead of doing homework. As it comes to a close, many students can be left stranded, not knowing what to expect of life after Gunn. To help these students, alumni who re- member this time of uncertainty have started to reach out and extend a guiding hand.

Scott Baer is one of those alumni. A 2010 graduate and 2014 University of Oregon graduate, he was recently inspired to set up a program to give current students one-on-one mentor-mentee sessions with alumni, where students could discuss their interests or future plans with alumni and recieve advice. “When I was in college, I was involved in a club where we paired upperclassmen and underclassmen, and it was a really cool way to connect,” Baer said. “It broke down the barrier where underclassmen felt intimidated by upperclassmen in a club.”

The idea to start a program, to connect students and alumni, however, didn’t click until Baer returned to Gunn. “Last fall, Gunn had done ‘Night in Everytown,’ and they asked alumni to come back,” Baer said. “I returned and I was blown away by what a great event it was. I just noticed through conversations that there was a lot of pressure students were putting on them- selves due to the expectations of what they should do after high school.”

At the event and through talking to students, Baer realized that many of the students had no idea what to expect of the years to come, and decided that hav- ing alumni come back to talk would ease some of the fears. “I hope that there is the connection [between the student and alumni] of ‘I’ve been there, I’ve been in your shoes,’” Baer said.

Baer began to talk to other alumni and students who he thought would be interested in his program. “We’re working on getting the idea out there and gathering input about how to make this valuable for current students,” he said.

It’s no surprise that students see their teachers as mentors. So when alumni try to reconnect, they turn to their teachers first. “There are so many alumni that we have who are inked to Gunn, who love Gunn, who want to help Gunn students,” English teacher Diane Ichikawa said. “[Scott Baer] is one of three alumni who have come to me in the past month who have ideas about what they can do to help out Gunn.”

A Gunn teacher of 17 years, Ichikawa has seen former students try to reach out to Gunn. “I’ve had alumni come back and talk to students, guest lecturing in a class or something of that nature,” Ichikawa said. “But trying to find a way so that former Gunn students can come back and talk to current Gunn students in meaningful ways and form personal relationships is something that’s different.”

As Baer’s main focus on the program is figuring out what kind of support Gunn kids need, he has several students with whom he is collaborating. Senior Wil- lie Barnett, a childhood friend of Baer, was instantlydrawn to the program. “If I were staying at Gunn, I would sign up for it because it would reduce my stress [and] I would be able to ask my mentor any questions I want,” Barnett said. “I would be able to see him whenever I want, talk to him whenever I want, and he would be very helpful just [as] a good source for question.”

Barnett says that the program can help relieve student anxiety about col- lege and the years beyond. “[The alumni] know that there is a lot of stress when you start to get into you higher years at Gunn,” Barnett said. “Scott says he knows there is a lot of stress and he knows that he will be able to help and all his friends and fellow alumni know that as well: they know what to say, they know what’s going on because they’ve gone through it, and they feel they would be able to help.”

The program is currently in its first phase. “We just got the name out [and] we’re working on our mission statement,” Barnett explained. “We’re going to start with 50 kids and 50 alumni as a testing phase.”

According to Baer, the most important part at the moment is making sure students are informed that this program exists. “We’re looking to get the word out to students to gauge their interests and tailor the program to their interests,” he said.

After much pondering and consideration, Baer and his group have decided on an official name for the program: TitanUp. “We’re trying to ‘tighten up’ the gap between students and alumni,” Barnett said. Students can email gunn.titanup@gmail.com to find out more information about the program.

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