Brandy Kopsi (left) has fun during a card game with Lexi Anderson in Natalie Towle’s first-grade classroom Wednesday at Central Elementary School in Menominee. Anderson, a senior at Menominee High School, participates in a mentoring program the student council sponsors. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Brandy Kopsi (left) has fun during a card game with Lexi Anderson in Natalie Towle’s first-grade classroom Wednesday at Central Elementary School in Menominee. Anderson, a senior at Menominee High School, participates in a mentoring program the student council sponsors. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
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MENOMINEE - Menominee High School junior Garrett Dietz helps second-graders with math and reading at Central Elementary School.

"It's interesting to see the kids grow throughout the year," he said. "You really see a tremendous build-up in their knowledge."

Early last school year, Dietz said, some students couldn't write their name or recite the alphabet.

"By the end they could spell various letters and words," he said. "They were able to read at a much higher level.

Dietz said he's realized that other people learn differently.

"You don't see that any better than in working with little kids," Dietz said. "It teaches me a lot of patience."

Student council advisor Kevin Karkkainen said 26 members of the Menominee High School student council mentor pre-K through second-graders during sixth hour every Wednesday at Central Elementary School. Pairs or trios of students are assigned to teachers' classrooms during the 45-minute period. They help children with reading, writing, math and games, Karkkainen said.

"It's good to build relationships with these students because they don't always have that at home," he said. "They look up to them (high school students) and that's really special and cool."

Central Elementary School Librarian Julie Noha said the children receive more one-on-one learning when the high school students visit.

"If it's just me with a class of 25, I have to help them read a book and then try to explain some of the stories," she said. "But these girls (Courtney Makowski, Avrie Stewart and Mandy Mellinger) read with the kids. They're a tremendous amount of help."

High school senior Courtney Makowski, who helps show younger students how to properly use the library, said it's important for her to be a good role model for the children.

"We can't just show up and pretend that we're a good person," she said. "We have to actually live it."

Second-grade teacher DeeAnne Pohlmann compared the mentoring program to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"They (the younger students) can sit there and be relaxed with them," she said. "I wish I had them (high school students) for more than just the 45 minutes, but I know that's all they can do."

Central Elementary School Principal Julee Nordin said the mentoring program also benefits the high school students because many of them will eventually become parents.

"So they're sharing their time which is a wonderful thing for everyone to see," she said. "We all have to work together to help each other."