Gerstell Academy's annual "Oaks and Seedlings" ceremony - dedicated to the ongoing mentoring relationship between the Upper School students and Middle School students through a variety of leadership activities throughout the year - took place in the Paterakis Athletic Center gymnasium Oct. 11.
The Oaks and Seedlings program provides an opportunity for Middle School and Upper School Gerstell students to interact with one another, facilitating the continued sense of community and school spirit between the schools. More importantly, the program serves as an opportunity for Upper School students to mentor Middle School students; those in the Middle School are provided the opportunity to learn useful lessons from an older student, while the Upper School mentors gain leadership experience.
All of the Middle School and Upper School students from sixth grade to 12th grade are involved in the program, each with specific roles. The mentors are "oaks" and those being mentored are "seedlings."
The 12th-graders serve as mentors; they are "oaks" to the ninth-graders and "grand oaks" to the sixth-graders. Ninth-graders serve as "oaks" to the sixth-graders, 11th-graders are "oaks" to the eighth-graders, and 10th-graders are "oaks" to the seventh-graders.
A few weeks before the official ceremony, the ninth- and sixth-grade students meet so they can get to know each other. They are given a survey intended to match the students based on compatible interests.
During the ceremony, Upper School students read various introductory pieces, welcoming the new students to the program, while the sixth-graders, who are working on their public speaking skills, read the "Wye Oak" poem.
Then the anticipated moment arrives: Pairings of "oaks" and "seedlings" are announced, followed by each new seedling pinning an oak pin on his or her mentor's blazer.
During the course of a year, various events are held in which the students work with their mentors/proteges and further strengthen their bond together with other oaks/seedlings, a relationship that will continue beyond their years at Gerstell.
Gerstell Academy is in Finksburg.