Older teens get $100 a month to tutor juniors
Schools in Philadelphia are to pay 2,000 final-year students up to $100 (Pounds 54) a month to tutor younger children and assist staff.
The $2m mentoring and work experience scheme launched last week, aims to recruit student role models who will also get a taste of the world of work.
Known as "senior residents", they will wear distinctive polo shorts with special insignias around school.
The students will be paired with 14 and 15-year-olds new to secondary school, or serve in student success centres for pupils seeking academic help. They will be expected to put in five to seven hours a week, after lessons, helping around school.
"There will be student counsellor assistants, (sports) coaching assistants, day-care assistants and office assistants," said Creg Williams, Philadelphia school district's deputy chief academic officer. "It will create a positive school environment, and enhanced career readiness and sense of civic responsibility."
Participants will not get cash in hand: the money will be paid into special bank accounts that they will draw on using debit cards, helping instil financial management skills, Mr Williams said.
Mentoring expert Jay Smink, executive director of the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson university, said asking older students to help and encourage younger ones benefited both.
"Younger kids always look up to older kids. It's easier for them to believe a mentor just a year or two older, than an adult." Previous youth-to-youth mentor schemes had given mentors "a sense of purpose" and made them more motivated, Mr Smink added.
The Philadelphia students will work in their own schools initially, but education chiefs hope to send them city-wide next year - to primary, middle and other secondary schools. Those selected must meet a minimum academic standard, have a 90 per cent attendance record and good disciplinary history.
The scheme complements Philadelphia's staff mentoring programme, where veteran teachers serve as full-time coaches to less experienced colleagues.
This has been linked to improved staff retention.