September 3 marked the first day of school for students at Golder College Prep. Students returned to lots of changes at the building in Noble Square, with many students returning for the first time since March 2020. Among those changes was the addition of the Lion’s Pride program which students would hear about during the second week of school.
Naketa Jones is no stranger to the Lion’s Pride program, having worked at Baker College Prep when the program was founded in 2017. Jones saw first hand the impact of the program on many of the students she worked with as a school culture specialist and is excited to bring the program Golder in her role as Assistant Dean of Ninth Grade.
“I have been advocating for Lion’s Pride for 2 years. I think it is timing and a shift to more SEL programming that created an opening here at Golder. I’ve also watched the program grow from the beginning and the Bigs and Littles have had enormous success,” said Jones.
The Lion’s Pride program aims to support ninth grade students in their transition from eighth grade to high school through peer mentorship. In addition to addressing the differences between grammar school and high school, programming this year will support students in returning to in-person school after a year and a half of virtual learning.
Students need to be retaught it’s ok to feel, it’s ok to not have it together, and it’s ok to ask for help.
Jones believes the Lion’s Pride program will allow her to address the most pressing needs of students at this time such as “ adjusting to time, travel, and being around peers that have had little interaction with for the past year.” Jones is especially interested in the social-emotional development of ninth grade students and learning soft skills necessary for success in high school and beyond.
When it comes to students’ needs related to mental health and navigating challenges outside of school, Jones believes that students need, “to be retaught it’s ok to feel, it’s ok to not have it together, and it’s ok to ask for help.” Jones plans to execute the program by leveraging her strength of “serving our youth on a daily basis to meet them where they are and see them grow as human beings” and using student data to assess the program and ensure “students have received all that the program has to offer.”
While there is much to consider when starting a new program within a school, Jones has high hopes for the Lion’s Pride program at Golder this year and its ability to positively impact the students and contribute to the overall growth of Golder.
“I am looking forward to our upperclassmen shining and developing skills that will put them at an advantage in their post-secondary choices. I am also excited for our freshmen to gain peer-to-peer acquaintances and the ability to advocate for themselves.”
The Lion's Pride mission is simple: to empower youth leaders to guide incoming high school freshmen to reach their fullest potential. Yet it would not be achievable without the contribution and dedication of Lion's Pride "Bigs" like Jercura Kindred.
Jercura has been inspired by the mission throughout her time as a “Big” and views her role as a mentor as having had a positive impact on her own life aspirations. She describes being a Lion’s Pride Big as "one of my proudest achievements. Pride has not only allowed me to connect with younger students, but has also enhanced me as an individual and the way I look at people and the relationships I have with them."
What drew Jercura to Lion’s Pride? Initially, Jercura viewed Pride as a resume builder for college. It ended up being much more and "something that I genuinely love and decided to carry on doing my senior year." She's even reached out to her friends and fellow students, encouraging them to become involved with Pride. Why? Because of the people. Jercura's favorite part about being a Big has been the connections she's made.
Pride has pushed me to do things that I may not have had the courage to do on my own
"The relationships I have built and lessons that I have learned have been my favorite part,” said Jercura. “It's one thing to go to school with people, but it's another thing to engage with... your peers in an open setting that allows you to work on yourself and to sit back and reflect with others on things you might not have had the opportunity to express."
At the same time, through her relationships with her Littles, Pride has encouraged Jercura to grow as a student and a person. "Pride has pushed me to do things that I may not have had the courage to do on my own and has opened my eyes to new experiences that I never thought I'd want to engage in.
What's in Jercura's future, beyond Pride? Jercura is certain she will use what she's learned as a Big throughout the rest of her academic career. "There are many things that I strive to implement ... but the main lesson is to be self-aware and to not worry about things outside of my locus of control. Everything that is meant to happen, will happen, and as long as I am being my authentic self, everything will be okay.”