Transitioning from Middle School to High School can be a jarring experience. It’s a new environment, with higher expectations and demanding challenges.  “It is a little bit hard, I’m not going to lie,” says Antonio, a first-year student at the Boston Arts Academy. “I thought it was going to be easy but, no, it’s not.” Yet, Antonio recently reflected on the people who encouraged and pushed him to succeed in the past, and he is turning things around by seeking that help once again.

An energetic and playful teenager, Antonio can sometimes lose focus during his study time. Like anyone his age, he likes to goof off and joke around with his friends. It’s a busy school day with plenty of challenges to those who are easily distracted, which means that Antonio is facing an uphill battle every time he sits down to work.

Despite immediate success in his art classes, Antonio began having a tough time with math. When things became too difficult, he was determined to put the solution in his own hands, and he knew that there was someone he could call to help him.

When Antonio was a middle school student at the Gardner Pilot Academy, he was previously matched with a Boston Partners volunteer academic mentor named Ty. Antonio had worked closely with Ty for two years, and he recalled that Ty had helped him to focus on his work by giving him the individual attention he needed. Even though Ty only spent an hour a week with Antonio, it was enough to make the difference between success and failure in the classroom.

With a set of similar challenges in front of him, Antonio decided to reach out to his former mentor.

“I’ve been working really hard lately. But I wanted to work with Ty again because I could tell that I was struggling and I didn’t want to lie and say it was easy or that I didn’t need help. So, I asked Ty if he could come back because I knew I needed help. I knew I already had a connection with him and I knew I didn’t want to have to start over with a whole new tutor who wouldn’t really have a connection with me.”

The pair quickly picked up where they left off. “A typical session is me either finishing up homework or us checking my homework to see if it was correct. If it wasn’t correct then he’ll help with corrections and explain what I didn’t understand,” says Antonio. During their sessions, Ty is able to patiently remind Antonio to focus on his work, which means that the hour they spend together becomes much more productive. It also builds the attention skills that Antonio will need to get his work done the rest of the week.

However, Ty and Antonio have built a rapport that has kept the sessions fun and allowed them to build a meaningful relationship. “I knew we were getting comfortable when he started asking me if he could goof off for part of the time we were together and we played some games like, his math teacher gave some assignments that involved probability. There were dice games, card games and things like that. We had some fun, and when we were having fun together, I knew we were getting closer,” Ty said.

This aspect of the mentoring is often more important to Antonio’s success than any academic knowledge Ty can impart. It’s partially why Ty doesn’t like to refer to himself an educator, in addition to respect for the teachers he’s encountered while mentoring.

“I, like many people, probably didn’t really appreciate what a hard job it is to teach kids. I have been so impressed with the teachers that I work with at the Gardner Pilot Academy and actually how the school is run. I think it’s really a great place, the teachers are fantastically skilled. I just wanted to say that because I don’t think enough people realize that.”

Antonio still has found Ty to be an essential part of his success, and has advocated for the help he needs to accomplish his goals. “My goals for the rest of the school year are to work my hardest. Even though I already have high grades in my art class, I want to get them to be the highest they can be. Since my lowest grade right now out of all of my grades is math, I want to boost that up.”

It seems that with Ty’s help, Antonio is getting there.

“You told me you made an 87 on the last math test,” remarked Ty during our interview.

“Yeah, I got an 87 on the last test.” Antonio replied.

“Is that a B or a C?”

“That’s a B.”

“That’s awesome. We’ll have to make some more of those happen.”