The Silicon Valley Voice

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Homestead High Upperclassmen Create Inara Online Mentoring Platform for Middle Schoolers

Homestead High School (Cupertino) seniors Rajvi Umrigar and Michelle Wallerius understand from personal experience the need for guidance in transitioning from middle school to high school.

“One of the most daunting challenges growing up was not having anyone to guide me through high school,” said Umrigar, an oldest child. “Being foreign to the idea of a GPA, AP classes, SAT, and even college applications, made me feel behind the rest of my peers.

“Reflecting on my struggles, I wanted to do something to give a hand to others in a similar situation.”

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Last year, Umrigar and Wallerius co-founded the free, online mentoring platform Inara (http://inaramentoring.com/), meaning “shining light” in Arabic. It represents the bright future they see for their mentees.

Inara’s team of trained Homestead High School upperclass mentors light the path for middle school students, enabling them to enter high school with more confidence and take advantage of its opportunities from the start.

The upper-class mentors provide personalized, online mentoring (not to be confused with subject tutoring). They offer social support and encouragement to keep mentees motivated and productive, even during the stress of a pandemic.

Middle school students are invited to ask “all their burning questions” about course selection, clubs, athletics, and more while building friendships and growing their school network. A downloadable study hack packet, “Study Smarter Not Harder: Studying Techniques,” is available on Inara’s website.

Inara also sponsors free webinars for middle and high school students and their parents. This month: High School Course Selection on Feb. 13 and Summer Opportunities on Feb. 20.

“I am very proud of the Inara team for taking initiative towards the transition from middle to high school, which is typically overlooked,” said Umrigar. “It’s a very important and difficult transition, and the experience itself can be both exciting and even scary.”

Inara, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, launched in June of 2020 with about 60 mentees, primarily from Sunnyvale and Columbia Middle Schools in Sunnyvale and Graham Middle School in Mountain View. Enrollment is open to students throughout the Bay Area.

Currently, Inara has about 15 mentees in open session enrollment. In open enrollment, mentees can enter the program anytime and schedule virtual one-on-one meetups with mentors.

“Providing guidance and support to middle school students gives me a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that I was in the same shoes not too long ago,” said Umrigar, who plans to continue to lead Inara with Wallerius even after high school graduation.

“Many [people] are suffering from feelings of utter helplessness during these difficult times,” added Umrigar. “However, it is important to remember that there are many ways to help your community, aside from staying home.

“Everyone has their own unique talents and skills that they can use to make a difference. I highly encourage everyone to use this time to give back to their community.”

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