U-32 seventh graders presented the books they made for district elementary first and second graders at the annual Book Buddy event at U-32 on May 25. One of the most cherished events of the year!
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, email@example.com or Mentor Coordinator Kim McKellar, firstname.lastname@example.org.
All are welcome to this showcase of student work by students in Community Based Learning, Branching Out, The Pilot, and Branching Out Middle School. During the night all of our community mentors who have helped our students during their flexible pathways studies will be honored. In addition, we will have great food and a few speakers!
In honor of Mentoring Month, I am happy to share my experience as a mentor with Girls/Boyz First mentoring program. I am not currently a mentor, as the young girl I was matched with at age 10 is now 20 years old. I count the years we spent together, week after week and year after year, as some of the best use of volunteer time that I have ever spent.
I volunteered to be a mentor when I retired from public school teaching. It so happened that this young girl’s mother had recently abandoned the family and left the state. She was referred by the school’s guidance counselor as someone who could benefit from having a mentor. It was perfect timing for both of us.
I found our match to be easy right from the start, as my mentee was enthusiastic about everything. Her favorite way to spend time was simply to come to our house, help make a meal and share it with my husband and me, and then play a board game. We did many other activities that program director planned for all the partners, such as ice skating, hikes, apple picking, game nights and holiday parties. My mentee loved horses and I knew nothing about them. We found another mentor who owned several and that led to a summer full of riding and an eventual weekend job at a stable. My mentee often called me in those early years, asking, “What are we going to do this week?” We both had fun.
Things weren’t always rosy. My mentee turned the teenage corner and had many conflicts with her father. She had trouble in school and often feigned sickness or injury to be able to stay home. She did not have much support at home in the way of encouragement, or role models from anyone who had enjoyed or had success in school. Her home life in general was challenging. During those years I think the most important role I played was that of consistency. I also had to try to impart some habits that I felt my mentee needed to cultivate. One was simply to learn to say “thank you,” and that took a long time.
When my mentee graduated from high school we stopped officially being a mentor/mentee pair. But, we have remained good friends and I am thrilled that she still counts on me to help her out and wants me to be involved in her adult life. She recently asked me to help her with a sewing project, saying, “ It’ll be like when you taught me how to sew!” Her life is not an easy one, as her family dynamics have not changed. However, I’m very impressed that she has earned an LNA (licensed nurse assistant) certificate, is employed, and lives on her own. She has many talents and an amazing amount of confidence for someone from her background. My role now is to continue to encourage her, help her out when I can, and still be that consistent, trusting adult who truly cares about her and her welfare.
Common sense tells us, and research has proven, that children have a better chance of success and future happiness when they have at least one caring adult with whom they can spend quality time and depend on to be there for them. There are so many stresses in today’s society and the reasons to look for mentor relationships outside of one’s own family are numerous and varied. I am so happy that Girls/Boyz First exists to try to fill that crucial role for children and families who reach out and request that support. Personally, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have a relationship with one child I would have never known and the satisfaction of knowing that we both benefited greatly from our friendship.
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. Keep Reading