U-32 Celebrates Community Mentors

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On the evening of May 9th, U-32’s atrium was filled with students, parents and community members. All were gathered to showcase and celebrate the work done by U-32 students and the help of mentors in our annual Mentor Appreciation Night.

U-32 offers five programs in which students have the chance to link up with mentors in the community: Branching Out, Community Based Learning (CBL), The Pilot program, Branching Out Middle School, and the Alt Path to Graduation. All told, we have as many as 130 students each year learning from community members and area businesses.

The five programs at U-32 give students a chance to study a topic not available in school — like Japanese, Buddhism, antique gunsmithing, building an electric guitar, or studying philosophy. Other times, students may want to get a glimpse of a career of interest — accounting, marketing, surgery, psychology, teaching, sound engineering or law enforcement. Exactly how mentors and students spend their hours together varies widely. One thing is consistent: mentors gift their time, expertise and interest. Students get a chance to meet community members, shadow or intern at area businesses, or get to know a familiar neighbor or family member in a new way. Lessons students learn often include how to reach out and communicate outside of school; how to connect with new adults; how to follow a thread of interest; how to be critical thinkers and feelers; how to be lifelong learners.

The student/mentor connection is the heart of these programs at U-32. Sophomore Finn Olson spent the year exploring questions of how people develop their moral/ethical values. On mentor night, Finn spoke about his connection with his mentor, East Montpelier resident Paul Erlbaum. “Paul taught me how to tackle big questions. He taught me how to research, and most importantly, he taught me that with a little peppermint tea, anything is possible…Paul has been a truly important adult in my life this year.” Paul responds “What an opportunity! Ruminating on questions people have pondered for centuries with a smart, determined, engaging 15-year-old — not an opportunity to be missed! Working with Finn and witnessing his critical thinking skills grow is a consistent joy.”

Mentor Ann Stanton, a mentor for several students studying psychology, shares the enthusiasm. “Everything about the mentor experience has been so positive. Just walking in the U-32 door, I feel boosted up by the energy contained in that building. My student mentees were serious about and invested in their topics. They worked hard, were eager to discuss and open to suggestions, and courageous in their explorations. In short, they were ideal students.”

Thank you to all the community members and businesses who have helped make our programs possible – we could not exist without their expertise and generosity. TREMENDOUS THANKS. If you are interested in mentoring a student, please feel free to contact Karen Liebermann, kliebermann@u32.org or Mentor Coordinator Kim McKellar, kmckellar@u32.org.

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