LINCOLN -- Many people look forward to Friday because it's the last day before the weekend. At Lincoln High, students look forward to Friday or a different reason.
The school started Mentor Friday this year as a way to connect with students and to reward them for finishing their school work and assignments for the week.
"I look forward to Fridays more than ever before," said Val Diaz, a sophomore at the school. "I love it. It's a great day to get caught up."
Principal Stan Karber said each teacher is serving as a mentor for a group of students and meets with those students every Friday.
"This is an opportunity for teachers to develop a relationship and also to serve as a liaison for the student, the student's teachers and parents," Karber said.
Holding up his smartphone, Karber said the long-time parent-teacher conference is an outdated method of communication because there are so many other ways for parents and teachers to communicate with each other.
"In today's world, that is nonsense," Karber said.
With mentor groups, teachers can contact a student's mentor with any concerns or questions and then the child's mentor can talk to the student or talk to the parents. If a parent wants to talk to any teachers, that can be set up.
"We want to make sure we have a relationship with every student on campus," Karber said. "These mentor groups absolutely are helping us with that."
The mentor groups meet first thing in the morning to work on any school assignments. Once students are caught up with their school work, they can sign up to participate in a number of activities for the rest of the day.
Regular activities include ping pong in the commons area, which also is referred to as the rec room. Others can hang out in a hammock behind the school, visit with each other around tables in the cafeteria, play board games inside or boccie ball outside or shoot some hoops in the basketball arena.
Along with these activities, Karber said teachers have taken on the challenge to offer other classes or outings for students, such as a cooking class, hiking or kayaking at Lincoln Lake, a meal at the pizza place or guitar jam sessions.
"Students are getting the chance to see teachers outside the classroom. That's the relationships these kids need."
Karber said his vision is that Friday will be a celebration of the kids, more of a community event on campus.
In the real world, people are rewarded for their work by getting paid, Karber said. He said he sees Fridays as a "pay day" for high school students.
"It's all incentive based," he said. "I really think that's why the kids bought into it. You work hard and grind hard Monday through Thursday, there is a reward on Friday."
He said Mentor Fridays especially have been important this year because of the covid-19 pandemic.
Teachers are seeing students with social, mental and emotional gaps because of dealing with covid-19 concerns.
On Fridays, he said he wants students to take a breath and fill in some of those gaps.
"We're trying to remedy that," he said. "School is a place you laugh, you cry, you fall in love and you have your heart broken."
Emilianne Cox, assistant principal and girls basketball coach, said the program is helping teachers because it is gives them the chance to be involved in something they are passionate about.
Biology teacher Kimball Durham, for example, is playing with other students in the School of Rock band.
"Teachers are driving the ideas," Cox said. "They can create courses for Fridays."
Some teachers are using the day to meet with small groups for extra learning or to intervene. FFA students may use the extra time for their projects.
"I feel like the kids look forward to it and the teachers look forward to it," Cox said. "Teachers and kids have bought into it."
Bessie Frazier, a junior, said the program is a good incentive to be able to get out of the classroom. She also said it has helped her with some of her class struggles.
"You get extra time for your work. I know if I don't get it done during the week, I can finish it on Friday," Frazier said.
She enjoys playing volleyball with her friend, Sharron Bieber, also a junior, on Fridays when they both finish their school work.
Diaz said the mentor groups give students a central place to go. He said he also believes students are more comfortable if they need to talk about an issue or problem because they've been with the same person all year.