The Student News Site of Minnechaug Regional High School

The Smoke Signal

The Student News Site of Minnechaug Regional High School

The Smoke Signal

The Student News Site of Minnechaug Regional High School

The Smoke Signal


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The Importance of Role Models in a Child’s Life

Although teenagers face problems that can feel insurmountable, many choose not to seek help from role models. According to Minnechaug Assistant Principal Joanne White, this is a problem. She pointed out that teens are up against quite a bit.

“They are combating a lot of negative images in social media,” White said. “Kids get lost in that and the fear of not being accepted or liked does a number on kids and their self-esteem.”

As such, positive role modeling is one-way teens can face these challenges in contemporary life, White said. “They need them,” White said of teens needing role models. “They need that trusted person, someone who keeps you grounded.”

The good news is that more teens are looking for role models today than in previous years. The percentage of children and young people who say they have a role model has increased over the past decade, from 78% in 2009 to 93% in 2019, according to a report put out by the National Literacy Trust.
Young people look to specific role models for many reasons. According to the above report, 7- to 11-year-olds and 16- to 18-year-olds look up to their parents and friends and teachers and grandparents and siblings. The same study also showed that as adolescents mature, they move from looking to their parents as role models and begin to rely on others, such as teachers, coaches, and their friends.

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Gender also influences the selection of role models. Girls, for example, are more likely to look up to people they are in direct contact with, such as their moms. Boys, on the other hand, tend to look up to famous personalities, such as YouTubers or athletes. Regrettably, research shows that as people grow older, they are less likely to seek out role models.

White said she tries to make sure that students continue to have the support they need. “What I try to do is find a balance,” she said. “I don’t want to push, but I reach out in ways I know are discreet so that they know I’m here and when they are ready to talk, my door is open.”

Students are also encouraged to reach out to guidance counselors and adjustment counselors who can guide them as they find their way through adolescence. The school tries to have role models built into its structure for students.

“We have a team that is creative and thinks outside the box and will give up the shirt on their back for a lot of our kids,” White said. “But, we also worry about who’s slipping between the cracks.” She said this is one reason teachers and administrators are out in the hallway engaging with teenagers. She said teachers are “seeing who doesn’t have someone to talk to, who doesn’t have someone to each lunch with,” and responding to that.

“My big thing is building trust so kids know they can come here,” White said. “I’ll hold them accountable, but support them as they move through their struggle.”

Several students I spoke with, however, said they did not have a role model or anyone in specific they look up to. They look up to online personalities mostly.

Physical education and health teacher Dina DeMico said she sees this in her students and it concerns her. She said there is “a disconnect with actual interpersonal relationships” and this causes a loss of role models. This loss of role modeling can lead to some students leaving school completely. “I think anytime a kid can’t complete high school it’s because they don’t have the support outside of school, but especially the support inside school,” said DeMico. “I think it’s very hard when students don’t have someone saying, ‘Oh no, you’ve got your whole life in front of you.’”
DeMico is one of many teachers who try to be that person.

“I try to be consistent for my students because I know my students want and need someone happy and energetic in their lives,” she said.
Having a role model paid off in DeMico’s life. She became a physical education teacher because of a teacher who mentored her when she was young. Then, as fate would have it, DeMico mentored her mentor’s son. As she spoke with me, DeMico pulled out a text from her phone from her mentor. The mentor thanked her for all she did for her son. “Thank you for being such a huge role model for my son,” she said.

In a way, being a mentor is a blessing to all people involved – both the mentor and the mentee.

DeMico knows this from personal experience and she continues to be that person for future students. When she was a young teacher, her mentor gave her this advice: “As a high school teacher, you are going to touch kids’ lives and help them when they need it.”
She told DeMico that she was going to be there for students who needed her support. She said she would be there for them in the same way her mentor was there for her. This, DeMico said, is what ‘Chaug hopes to do for all its students. “Chaug does everything it can,” she said, referring to the staff and advisory and other efforts that try to help students.

Never fail to remember, that if you need support, please reach out to a teacher or guidance counselor who’s willing and waiting to be that role model for you.

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