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Tied to Tye Dye: SPO

Noa Cordova

Volume 4 Issue 5

June 26, 2024

Tied to Tye Dye: SPO

Image Provided by Catherine Modzelewski.

As most of us remember, transitioning from elementary school to high school upon graduating 6th grade poses challenges. The transition from 6th grade to 7th grade comes with a significant change in terms of environment, independence, friendships, activities, and academic expectations. Some students are fortunate enough to have the guidance of older siblings or peers, but many incoming 7th-grade students do not; even 7th-grade students who do, may feel they need additional guidance. Upon entering a new stage, in this case starting secondary-level schooling, having an older figure or mentor to look up to can ease the transition process. The Student Peer Organization here at North, SPO, has the unique opportunity of serving as a mentorship program for 7th graders. While North’s clubs consist of students of all grade levels, SPO members are juniors and seniors dedicated to working closely with 7th graders exclusively. Each spring, current SPO members enter sophomore English classrooms to introduce SPO to the upcoming juniors and briefly explain the application process. If you’re an upcoming junior or senior, and considering applying to join SPO, these are some questions to consider. 


What are the responsibilities of SPO members? 

SPO members are responsible for attending meetings, planning lessons, and serving as exceptional role models for 7th graders. SPO meets on Fridays immediately after school in room 235. Mrs. Melluso and Ms. Christiansen, the SPO advisors, keep the meetings brief; however, these mandatory meetings are essential to our lesson-planning process. During Friday meetings, members discuss lesson plans with their group and divide the work so that lessons run smoothly. Besides attending meetings, SPO members are responsible for planning engaging lessons for 7th-grade students. At the Friday meetings, the advisors provide a lesson outline that each group can work with or alter to fit the needs of their 7th-grade students. SPO groups decide on interactive components for their lessons like Kahoots, worksheets, coloring activities, physical games, etc. The 7th-grade orientation and 7th-grade Fun Day are two out-of-the-classroom activities that SPO members help lead. Most importantly, SPO members are role models for 7th-grade students, academically and socially; this includes working well with your SPO group and respecting the 7th-grade teachers, and students while running lessons. 


How are SPO groups made? 

The SPO advisors, Mrs. Melluso and Ms. Christiansen assign SPO groups at the beginning of the school year. In September, once you know which classes you are taking, the advisors send out chats asking which periods you do not want to be pulled out from. If you are taking several APs, like many SPO members, try narrowing it down to one you’d like to avoid missing. SPO groups are assigned depending on the members’ available periods and 7th-grade English teachers’ schedules. If you speak a second language, you will likely be placed in an ENL classroom. Usually, SPO groups consist of four to five members; the advisors set up Teams chats for each group to communicate with outside of Friday meetings. 


What’s the process for joining SPO? 

SPO comprises about 50 members selected through an application and interview process. After current SPO members enter the sophomore classrooms during the spring, the advisors will send out a form to the English teachers for interested students to apply. The forms ask about your interest in SPO, availability for the upcoming year, leadership experience, etc. After filling out the form, Mrs. Melluso will have a sign-up sheet for interviews in room 235. Applicants schedule their interviews based on their availability during the dates provided. The interview questions mimic the application questions and give the advisors a sense of who you are in person, apart from the digital application. Additionally, the advisors typically ask for two teachers to vouge for your character, so keep two teachers in mind who know you well and are willing to serve as a character reference. Be sure to hand in your application on time and show up to your scheduled interview to be considered as a candidate! 


Why join SPO? 

The Student Peer Organization provides upperclassmen with the unique opportunity to assume the role of teachers for a period. The club encourages student leadership, facilitates collaboration among peers, and provides a space to work with a diverse group of people. And yes, SPO may stand out on a college application, but it’s about more than how you look on paper. As a SPO member, I’ve gotten to meet and collaborate with new people that I may not have gotten to work with otherwise. You learn and grow in your leadership as you surround yourself with other phenomenal leaders in SPO. The 7th graders, although they can be a handful, teach us a lot about patience and compassion. If you’re considering going into teaching or enjoy working with others and strengthening your leadership skills, SPO could be the organization for you. Additionally, we have, arguably, the best, loudest shirts in the building. 


Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of our wonderful SPO advisors, Mrs. Melluso, about the club and her perspective as an advisor. Additionally, she provides a little insight into how they review candidates. 


How did SPO start? 

 “Spo existed for I don’t even know how long before I got here. Ms. Ehrlich, a school social worker, retired in 2021 and Ms. Christensen and I took it over.” 

Why did you become a SPO advisor? 

Ms. Melluso shared that she insisted that SPO needed to continue running, but she couldn’t do it on her own, so she recruited Ms. Christiansen, a school psychologist, as her co-advisor. “Because I feel that the lessons that SPO goes in and teaches are important for the 7th graders to receive. We used to do a lot of lessons on bullying, we did lessons on how one's actions have a ripple effect and how it’s not just in that moment, but it can hurt or make someone feel better for days or weeks.” 


What is SPO’s purpose in the North community? 

“SPO’s real purpose is to help acclimate the 7th graders into our building. They [SPO members] are here as role models, they are here as guides…they are here to be mentors.” 


What kind of candidates do you look for during the interview process? What kind of students should apply to SPO? 

“It’s a big question because the thing is we don’t go in with a set candidate in mind. We want our incoming SPO members to be from across the board. We are not looking for the already popular, already athletic, already in these other activities kind of student; we actually look for the student that is underutilized because it's very difficult when you have a student who is in 10 clubs already, is vice president of this one, president of that one…they become very overextended. We’re not looking for the student who is taking 5-6 Aps; we don’t care if you’re taking APs or not. Sometimes when kids tell us they are not taking APs, we’re shocked because we don’t get those kids very often. We’re looking for anybody who has an interest in making our school a better place and wants to work with 7th graders and mentor them. We’re not looking for “resume-builders” … if you’ve never been in a club before, SPO is not the club for you. 

Essentially, Mrs. Melluso and Ms. Christiansen look to organize a diverse, dedicated group of student leaders. Whether you are heavily involved or not, SPO could be the club for you. Diversity in terms of extracurricular involvement, academic pathways, and identity are important to SPO. 7th-grade students need to have role models they can relate to; younger boys seeing older boys leading or bilingual students mentoring ENL students can have a profound impact on their school experience and willingness to get involved throughout high school. I would advise against hesitating to apply because you “do not meet certain criteria” because as Mrs. Melluso established, it does not exist. 


Lastly, congratulations to our newly accepted SPO members for the 2024-2025 school year! 


Azor, Alissa 

Balde, Mariam 

Berrios-Villalobos, Maria 

Bonilla, Francesca 

Buonomo, Karen 

Cabrera, Daniella 

Cordova, Mia 

Dekel, Julianna 

Frederique, Lia 

Garufi, Sabrina 

Gonzalez, Naomi 

Hunt, Matthew 

Kaur, Itratt 

Khizer, Wardah 

Lavoie, Audrey 

Manrique-Flores, Dulce 

Mina, Leandra 

Nunnari, Alessia 

Quagliata, Giavanna 

Redezpovic, Maida 

Romano, James 

Sherman, Claudia 

Singh, Reba 

Sullivan, Savannah 

Verso, Dominick 

Visnay, Alianiz 


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