Students starting at Minnetonka High School have numerous supports in place to help them find success, and in addition to teachers and counselors, they have a unique group of peers to help answer questions they may have along their way. These peers are part of the MHS First Mates program. Every year, freshmen are welcomed into Minnetonka High School by Senior First Mates, who help incoming ninth graders acclimate to life at MHS.
“First Mates are an amazing asset to establishing and promoting our positive school culture and they leave a lasting impact every year,” said MHS Student Life coordinator and First Mates advisor Amy Livorsi. “Many of our junior applicants seek out the opportunity because they were impacted by their First Mates their freshman year and want to give back by being a leader for the newest members of our community.”
“As a freshman coming into MHS, I had no idea how to find my way along,” said Julia Terrell ‘22, a current First Mate. “I wanted to become a First Mate to be a role model for incoming freshmen, and help them become more comfortable coming into high school.”
Traditionally, First Mates lead various activities and events for freshmen throughout the school year, such as the 8th Grade Visit, Freshman Orientation, Respect Retreat and several connectors during Finals and Heart Week. During the freshmen orientation, freshmen are divided into small groups, with Senior First Mates leading various activities.
“The Freshman Orientation is our biggest event, as it sets the foundation for everything that we do with 9th graders in the fall,” said Livorsi. “This orientation is a jam-packed day full of team building, tours, lunch and meeting teachers while touring schedules.”
In order to prepare for all these activities in the program, First Mates are trained during their junior year, and as seniors, lead events approximately once a month during the first semester.
“My experience has been really rewarding, getting to work with awesome high schoolers, and getting to know them better through various activities,” said Lauren VeDeen ‘22.
“I’ve made many connections with freshmen so far, and [I] hope to further those relationships as the school year progresses,” added Terrell.
The application process to become a First Mate begins in January for juniors, with informational meetings held about the program. After attending one of the meetings, juniors gain access to an application which assesses their leadership skills and experiences.
“Our goal is to create a team of First Mates with diversity in activities, leadership styles and academic paths that mirrors our incoming 9th grade class – we want them to see themselves in our leadership team, and we want our leaders to have a wide variety of personalities to spark and support our 9th graders’ interests,” said Livorsi.
As the school year progresses, freshmen will continue engaging in activities with the First Mates program. “I’m looking forward to continuing to impact and connect with the Class of 2025,” said William Richman ‘22, a First Mates board member and Varsity Football player. “I know that school can feel big and stressful, and I just want to help everyone excel here at Minnetonka.”
Giving advice to the new ninth grade class, Vedeen encouraged them, “to not be afraid to make new friends and smile at people down the hallway. A smile goes a long way!”
We are so excited to have you at MHS, Class of 2025! Thanks to all Senior First Mates for your guidance and support to the new freshmen.