A mentorship program called “Sugar and Spice” in Guilford County brings high school and elementary school girls together to work on problem-solving, managing emotions and building self-esteem.

Northeast Guilford High School’s Dean of Students Maria Miller said the mentorship program used to be called “Sisterhood.” 

“Something about just the name 'Sisterhood' didn't sit well with me as a dean, because all of our girls have different personalities," Miller said. "Some of them have sweet moments, and we get spicy at the same time.”

And so do the 4th and 5th grade girls at Madison Elementary School. Miller told the high school mentors who visit them every week that they’re helping those students learn to manage those sweet and spicy feelings. 

“When they have all these big emotions, they're so small, they don't know what to do with them sometimes. So that self-regulation is still learning," Miller said. "And you guys are a big part of that. Regardless of what you feel like you're doing here, your steps and your mentoring, are altering that thought process.”

On one particular day, Miller had the mentors and students talk about some of their negative self-beliefs. They got to the bottom of where those came from, and then found a way to turn them into something positive. 

For example, one girl said she was “dumb” because she got some questions wrong on a math test. Her mentor helped her see things differently. She wasn’t “dumb,” she was “still learning,” and could maybe ask her teacher for some extra help. 

Advice like that from an older kid is something Delilah Michel, a mentor in 11th grade, said she could have used when she was younger. 

“But I'm glad that we can come out here and then talk to them and relate to them and then hear their stories and help them feel heard and like, seen by older kids," Michel said. "And feel a little bit cooler, because they get to hang out with us.” 

At the end of their meeting, the dean had the mentors and mentees repeat a few positive affirmations.

"I am loved." "I am worthy." "I am amazing."

And before going back to their classes, they came together for one big group hug.

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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