Founded in in 1889, Ventura High School has been preparing its students to be of service to the city of Ventura, the state of California, the nation and the world. Every generation of VHS students and teachers has built upon the success of the classes before it. The VHS Dens are a means to immediately immerse a student in the collective history and institutional memory of the campus, connecting them to their fellow students, teachers and practices. 

Why Dens?

Community, connection, communication, confidence and more. VHS’ dens are modeled after Ivy League residential colleges at Yale University and houses at Harvard and other universities formed to bring students together, provide them support, and form school pride.  9th grade Dens then are meant to be vibrant and diverse groups where students have the opportunity to have a small, cohesive school experience within a larger school setting. Because of a very personal mentee to mentor ratio, students have the opportunity to learn the academic and social nuances of VHS’s culture in a safe, personal, fun and educational way. Because community, communication and connection are at the core of a den’s purpose, entering den members are guaranteed to have at least one stellar upper classmen as a mentor to welcome them, to answer their questions and to encourage them to participate in all VHS has to offer.

How are Dens formed?

After registration has been finalized, every new student to VHS is assigned to one of ten dens. Each den is composed of two den leaders (a den leader oversees one half of a den).  Den Leaders can be teachers, counselors or administrators.  Distinguished junior and senior students chosen for their character, academic excellence and school participation will be assigned as den mentors.  Interested volunteer parents of new den members can serve as Den Ambassadors; liaisons to parents, to den leaders and to community members to organize and support activities for the dens.  Ambassadors will work with the den leaders to coordinate resources for quarterly events and to communicate with other parents.

When and where do Dens meet?

Dens meet in a blended environment as den mentors use both technology and face to face time to stay in touch with their 9th grade mentee.  Den mentors will meet face to face or make contact at least once a week via phone call or text to check in with their 9th grade student.  This can include sending them invitations to school events, reminders of upcoming due dates, check on their progress and more. At least once a month and prior to the end of a quarter and semester, the Dens will convene with their den leaders and mentors to participate in presentations done by professionals in our community, college recruiters, academic counselors, graduates, and their Den leaders and mentors. Dens will also meet for specific 9th grade rallies, activities and pizza lunches.

How will this fit into the 9th graders schedule?

Being in a den does not add to a student’s class schedule nor take time away from a students assigned classes and activities. Every school has rallies and assemblies that are organized by its Associated Student Body (ASB) or administration that are planned in advance and within the instructional minutes and which students must attend.  Being in a den only supplements and supports a student’s schedule because it organizes 9th grade students into specific dens for organizational, communication and activity purposes. We found that 9th grade students that stayed in touch with their upperclassmen mentors and participated in den activities, felt more connected to school and had higher success rates academically and socially.

What activities do Dens do?

9th grade den members will be encouraged to participate in a variety of academic, athletic, social and community activities throughout the school year by their Den mentors. The activities will be student centered and student generated and will generally occur during lunch or after school. Quarterly rallies will also be scheduled where dens will get to compete against one another in fun games and activities for prizes. Whether it be tutoring, working on projects, participating in noon games, or attending a play or musical performance, the goal is to provide entering 9th grade den members a sample of what VHS has to offer so they will feel comfortable in at least one activity. From there a 9th grade student can springboard into an area they would like to explore more.

Den Mentor

“I’m a success today because I had a friend that believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”  –Pres. Abraham Lincoln

“If I see far it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.”  - Sir Isaac Newton

Mentor: n. 1. a wise or trusted adviser or guide; v. 2. to act as a mentor to (someone); to train

Why be a VHS den mentor?

Because you are cool and you have a lot to share with the new students to VHS. Another reason for being a mentor is that mentoring, the thoughtful practice of advising, guiding, training, listening to, and inspiring others, benefits everyone involved with it and passes knowledge and experience from one generation to another. Also, the mentor is provided the opportunity to reflect upon and share their knowledge and experience with someone that has yet to experience it. This provides the mentee the opportunity to ask questions, clarify expectations, plan accordingly and then move forward confidently knowing that their mentor has coached them in a way to help them be successful. As a result the Mentor becomes even more of a leader and expert at what it is they are coaching in and creates more mentors and leaders in the process. This form of service and leadership is personally very rewarding and enriching for the mentor as they quickly realize their efforts have helped others in their community be all they can.  

What is my role and responsibilities as a mentor?

Your role and responsibilities as a mentor are both straightforward and significant. Most importantly, your primary role and responsibility is to let your mentee know that there is an experienced and caring peer at VHS that is there to connect with them and let them know they are not alone in this journey. This is done by communicating with your mentee at least once a week via face to face meets or technology, to ask how they are doing, provide advice, invite and encourage mentee to participate in school activities, listen, motivate, remind about important school deadlines and expectations. Coordinate with the Den leader and ambassador in regards to monthly den meetings and support your Den leader with activities

How will I be mentored as a mentor?

As a mentor you will have the opportunity to hear directly from persons of interest to you that are experts in their field. You will also be have the opportunity to network with other mentors, be first to be invited to participate in leadership programs and conference planning workshops, and have a Den leader that will provide you with the same e Above all, the most important requirements for becoming a mentor is being a person that will not let someone down

What is the time commitment to be a mentor?

The time commitment of a mentor will vary for each mentor based on their level of commitment, availability, communication style and participation. The most important thing is for a mentor to make enough time to be able to send a group text to their mentees, make a phone call when a text won’t do, make time to attend some of the games and activities their den is participating in, and attend leadership meetings to get the latest scoop and plans for the month. A mentor comes a day before freshmen orientation to help set up.

What do Den Mentors gain from this experience?

Community service credit, honor cords at graduation, pride in helping your fellow students create an inclusive positive community of respect, and leadership experience. All those things look great on college app or resume too. Most importantly though is the admiration you’ll receive from the underclassmen and the legacy you are leaving behind.

Freshman Den Members

“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”- Confucious

What is my role as Freshman in my den?

Your role as a freshman is to make sure to come to school every day, get all of your class work done, participate in school events, and be the best person you can be. Your role as a freshman den member is to respond to your junior/ senior mentor texts or emails, participate as often as possible in the activities and events that the den mentors organize and invite you too, and to be open to making new friends and trying new things at school.

I heard that I can win prizes. How?

We will frequently be holding lunchtime activities, announcement trivia questions, rallies, and give aways. To be eligible you need to be willing to sign up for the activities and participate. For example, if we have a den dodgeball competition and you represent your den, you will either receive some VHS Cougar bling or other prize. Freshmen that participate earn points towards end of the year prizes and luncheon. Even showing up to an event makes you eligible to win a prize. The biggest prize though is the fun you’ll have and the connections you’ll make.

Do I have to participate in the Den Program?

As a freshman at VHS you are assigned an upper classmen guide/mentor guide whether you choose to participate fully, from time to time, or not at all. We do this to ensure that you have at least one experienced VHS student to turn to if you choose to fully utilize their experience or have questions. Regarding participation, there is no penalty for not attending events or participating in activities that are at lunch time or after school, however, you will miss out in the opportunity to get connected with your fellow freshman classmates in a fun and risk free environment. School organized grade level rallies however do require your attendance. We hope you participate though because students that have participated had a better freshman experience.

Do I need to purchase anything as a den member?

Being a freshman den member is all about getting out of it what you put into it through participation. You will be in a position to make friends, earn bling and prizes but we will not ask you to purchase anything to be in a den. We believe in you and we are working with parents and other community members to donate of their time, talents and treasure so you can have a great first year in high school.