January is National Mentor Month
By Wendy Freundlich
Every year in January, communities across the United States celebrate National Mentoring Month. Mentors are positive role models. They are community volunteers who help support youth. Mentors let our children know that an extra adult cares about them, listens to them and is there for them through the challenging years of late childhood through adolescence and beyond. By providing consistency, leadership and guidance, mentors help inspire young people to set high goals and work to follow their dreams.
Mentoring is a research-based, effective approach to helping youth overcome social, academic and economic challenges and is a common sense approach to resiliency-building skill development. Mentoring is also cost effective for communities.
Girls/Boyz First (GBF) is the longest running mentoring program in Central Vermont. Founded by Woman Centered in 1998, and now under the auspices of Washington Central Friends of Education, Girls/Boyz First is a community-based mentoring program where WCSU and Montpelier students meet weekly with their mentors. Mentor pairs may work together on building or sewing projects, volunteer in the community, play board games, read together, explore new interests or possible careers, go biking or hiking, cook or just hang out and talk. Girls/Boyz First Mentors encourage their mentees to do well in school, have a vision of themselves as successful learners, develop their passions, and pursue meaningful lives. Mentors model healthy lifestyles and relationship building skills.
One of Girls/Boyz First’s newest mentors is Worcester resident, Ben Whitney. Ben is matched with 12-year-old, Asmir Hadzic, a Rumney Memorial School 6th grader. Asmir has been in the program since 2013 and was previously matched with another mentor, who was not able to continue.
What kinds of activities have you enjoyed with each other?
Ben: I enjoyed the mini-golf. I also really enjoyed playing tennis with Asmir and disc golf too.
What do you enjoy most about Girls/Boyz First Mentoring?
Asmir: We can do whatever feels good to us – we have lots of freedom. Today, we went and saw a catamount stuffed at the Vermont Historical Society.
Ben: I like the group events and meeting other pairs. I have lots of fun being a mentor.
What’s important about mentoring?
Asmir: Spending time with your mentor.
Ben: Sharing your experiences and what you know with a child and giving that child a positive direction.
What would you tell others who might be thinking about having or becoming a mentor with Girls/Boyz First Mentoring?
Asmir: It’s a really good time. If you are bored, you can have fun. It’s important that you be excited and motivated to have a mentor!
Ben: Blocking out the time is important…We have lots of fun activities planned: going to hockey and basketball games at UVM, playing ice hockey…