Connect the Cats inspires community and collaboration across grade levels

Looking for a great way to tutor, mentor, and converse with younger students? Then Connect the Cats is just right for you. The Glenn Institute, which coordinates students’ involvement in community, philanthropy, and leadership, created the program during quarantine in order to connect Upper School student tutors with other students in need of tutoring across all three divisions of Westminster.

The Connect the Cats program was started in the spring of 2020, right after the COVID-19 pandemic hit this country. It was spearheaded by the Glenn Institute team made up of Jessica Dent, Meghan James, Hartley Glass, and Stacy Chalmers. Student tutors help their peers but also develop personal skills. 

“The program allows you to help little kids,” said Connect the Cats student tutor junior Mira Srinivasa. “You gain a better sense of how to teach other people and how to make conversation with people that you wouldn’t usually talk to.”

Connect the Cats is meant to benefit all Westminster students. Upper School students benefit from brightening a younger kid’s day through tutoring and companionship, both of which became increasingly important during remote learning. Often, younger students find it  more comfortable to work with a high school student rather than a hired adult tutor, leading to more meaningful virtual connections.

“This year I’m a tutor for a middle school student, but during quarantine, I was a conversation buddy for this third grader, and he was really cute,” said student tutor junior Hunter Wanamaker. “He was kind of lonely without all of his friends from school. I think it was really beneficial for me to help him out, talking about the things he liked, like sports and video games.”

Based on the feedback received from parents and students, Lower School students benefit the most. They enjoy being able to connect with Upper School students as well as Middle School students.

Dent shared the experience of one Lower School student who was struggling in math when he first joined the Connect the Cats program. The student actually ended up enjoying it when he had his Upper School tutor helping him through it. Their conversations and friendships made it easier for him to understand and enjoy math.

When the program first started, there were a total of 94 applicants, and after all of the data was taken into account, 14 pairs were made. Many of these pairs have developed into friendships that have brightened the lives of both mentor and mentee.

“When I first heard about the program, I thought it was a brilliant idea because we all need to connect more, especially during these tough times,” said junior Norah Lascar, a leader of Connect the Cats. “To have the ability to reach out to a fellow student and offer help when they need it was something that honestly made things a little better for me.”

The Connect the Cats Program is an excellent way to be able to meet and converse with students that you may not otherwise get the chance to know. Westminster students can get involved in the Connect the Cats program by applying. Currently students seeking help are on the waitlist, waiting to be paired with student mentors, so more tutors are always welcome. The link to the application has been in past student announcements. Students can also reach out to Dent, who can provide them with additional information. The application contains a form, in which students can specify their interests, who they would want to help, and how they would want to help them. Once the application is submitted, the applicant can get paired with a buddy.

“I really want all students to consider the program because it’s a great opportunity,” said Dent. “Not only do you become acquainted with students younger than you, or even your peers, it’s just an overall great experience, more so an opportunity to connect with other Westminster students.”