Eighth Grade Students Learn about the Four A’s of Upper School from Peer Mentors

By Sanchi Vishwakarma ’23 and Deren Pellegrini ’23

The final Peer to Peer conversation this year was with the 8th grade advisories. It took place over Zoom on Wednesday, and our mentors delved into the topic of the Upper School since we only have four more weeks left of school! For these soon-to-be freshmen, covering the Four A’s helped them get a taste of what life as freshmen will be like for them.

The Four A’s are crucial to life in the Upper School: academics, activities, athletics, and arts. Before immersing them in the Four A’s, the mentors began with understanding the concerns of the rising freshmen. With answers to questions such as “What is a free period?” and “How have your friendships changed when you moved to the Upper School?”, our mentors eased the worries of the soon-to-be freshmen.


Being one of the strongest academic institutions in St. Louis, MICDS provides students with diverse options for class selection. The mentors talked about strategies when choosing your classes, and how to balance your schedule with both rigor and individual passion. Mentors highlighted the importance of involving yourself in subjects you love, perhaps taking the highest level of that class. Many students tend to take only the highest level classes and end up stressed, as most people would be incapable of balancing such a workload. We talked about class registration and answered a variety of questions including, “what is an AP course,” and “how hard is an accelerated class?” We touched on how important it is to meet with your teachers in the Upper School, as many students shy away from asking questions their freshman year.


With the plethora of activities that the Upper School has to offer MICDS students, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by the endless amount of opportunities. The mentors introduced the 8th graders to a few of the many activities provided by the Upper School. They explained the importance of balancing academics with activities, finding your passions, the unique experience of the annual Activities Fair, and more. Many overcommit to activities, sometimes signing up for more than 10 clubs! The mentors provided advice on how to find which clubs interested them and which ones they wanted to devote time to. The 8th graders even received advice from their mentors, such as the benefits of getting involved in activities early on in their high school career: meeting upperclassmen and potentially holding leadership positions.


Home of some of the most competitive high school sports teams in the St. Louis area, MICDS offers a great variety of sports including squash, cycling, lacrosse, and many more. Sports are an essential part of MICDS Upper School culture and the mentors explained how sports truly affect their lives in the Upper School. Mentors discussed the great community-building which sports teams provide and the leadership roles that come with it. How can I become a captain? Who can make varsity teams? These were amongst the most popular and important questions frequently asked by our mentees in this discussion. Mentors provided insight on how skill is valued more than age, and they talked about the important role of captains, who can lead by example and vocally.


What’s the difference between fine and performing arts? How often will we have art classes? These were only some of the questions posed by the Middle Schoolers about the arts program at MICDS. The mentors introduced the Arts Council, elaborating on the different forms of arts that are flourishing on the MICDS campus. The performing arts, such as strings ensemble, drama, band, and choir, are those which are performed in front of an audience. The fine arts, such as ceramics, design, painting, photography, and architecture are visual arts to be appreciated for their intellectual and imaginative contents. Besides the typical classroom setting, there are arts opportunities outside of the classroom, such as Seldom Scene, drama productions, Blue Whale Cafe, and getting involved with the Arts Council to represent their art form in the MICDS community.

As this was the end of this year’s Peer to Peer conversations, we asked two of our mentors, Alyssa Kalishman ’21 and Happy Phatak ’23, to reflect on their experiences.

“Peer to peer has been such a rewarding experience. I love the connections I’ve made throughout my time in the program and I’ve enjoyed fostering really meaningful conversations about important topics. I’m glad I’ve been able to help our students navigate high school, and I definitely learned a thing or two about myself in the process. Today’s conversation was all about getting our 8th graders ready for their transition to high school. It’s definitely a huge adjustment, so we wanted them to hear about the process firsthand. Our goal was to get them feeling comfortable and prepared to move into their new environment.” —Alyssa Kalishman ’21

“Peer to Peer has been just an outstanding experience overall! I feel like I have made a positive impact on the 7th and 8th graders and that they are better prepared to take on the world! We covered many important topics during the sessions and I think it is wonderful that Peer to Peer is here to teach those lessons in a safe space. Peer to Peer helps everyone involved learn and grow to become their best selves. Middle school is such a crucial point in any student’s life and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a mentor to help them through it. Even though we held sessions over Zoom, we were still able to go over important lessons such as healthy relationships, what life in the Upper School is like, social media, stress and anxiety, and healthy decision making. The lessons taught by Peer to Peer will stay with these students and guide them to make healthy choices and be kind. I look forward to being a mentor again next year and I encourage others to get involved because it is such an amazing opportunity!” —Happy Phatak ’23