The Coast News Group
Soleil Belton of Torrey Pines High School plays with her Study Buddy, Yuvienna Haro of Del Mar Hills Academy of Arts and Sciences. Photo by Jennifer Hill
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Study Buddy student mentorship program remains strong


DEL MAR — When Kate Morley signed up with the Study Buddy program, she thought she would have a little fun, bond with a younger student and help them with their homework.

She did all that, but then something else happened.

“I am going into elementary education,” said the 17-year-old Torrey Pines High School student. “This sparked the interest in me.”

As for her Study Buddy, 11-year-old Del Mar Hills Academy of Arts & Sciences student Cooper Woodhall, he’s enjoyed being in the program for the past two years.

“When you are doing homework with a classmate and you get stuck, it is hard to figure it out,” Cooper said. “When you are with a more mature person they can help you. It is a good learning experience, trying something new. Isn’t that what learning is for?”

Study Buddy has been around for about 25 years.

“It’s a great program. It has been at Del Mar Hills for about four years,” said Jennifer Hill, who runs the program there.

“My son is dyslexic and that is why I wanted to bring it to Del Mar Hills,” she said. “All of my three kids go there.”

She said it is wonderful to see the kids connecting with each other.

“It almost brings tears to your eyes to see how they love each other and get along so well,” Hill said. Each meeting between the two lasts for about 60 minutes.

The first 40 minutes of the meeting is for homework and the next 20 is for play either on the playground or inside with board games and the like. Sometimes the older student ends up being a listening ear if their Study Buddy needs to talk about things.

There are two programs a year and each runs for eight weeks. At the end each participant gets a certificate with their photo on it.

Kelly McCormick has been running the program at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School for 10 years.

“My kids are no longer elementary students there, but I am still doing the program,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids and I enjoy it too. One thing I like to point out is that it is as much for the high school student as the elementary student.

She said teaching the teens how to act as a mentor is very empowering for them and many of them use their experience when writing their college entrance essays.

The program is free and students can earn community service credits by becoming a mentor.

Mentor Jason O’Hara, 17, who goes to La Costa Canyon High School, said he was in the program as an elementary school student and he participates now because it gives him the opportunity to give back.

“I have a lot of fun with it,” O’Hara said. “I help him with his homework. We play basketball and he comes to my basketball games.”

He said he has been a mentor since beginning high school, making this his eighth time since his freshman year.

There is always a need for Del Mar teens to be study buddies. They are asked to spend an hour a week with their buddies, who are generally elementary school students.

The program is sponsored by the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth and has been adopted by the Cardiff, Del Mar, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach Elementary school districts.

Elementary students are referred to the program by teachers who identify the pupils who can benefit academically, socially or emotionally from “mentoring.”

High school students are recruited at their schools and as a part of the application process must sign a pledge they are alcohol-, tobacco- and drug-free.

Each school site’s program is supervised by two adult coordinators who coordinate the teacher referrals, the parent permission letters and create the mentor/student Study Buddy team.

Applications are now being taken for the fall semester that starts in September.

To learn more, call (858) 755-6598 or visit