Students ask for more adult mentors

By Nicole Michaud - Staff Writer
Windsor - posted Fri., Jan. 28, 2011
David DeLeo eats lunch and does art with the fourth-grade student he mentors. Photos by Nicole Michaud.
David DeLeo eats lunch and does art with the fourth-grade student he mentors. Photos by Nicole Michaud.

WINDSOR - As the 10th anniversary of National Mentoring Month comes to a close, educators in the Windsor public schools are encouraging adults to help change the life of Windsor students by becoming a mentor. The district’s four elementary schools are in need of mentors for students ages 6 to 10, many of whom are on a waiting list until more mentors donate their time. Mentors are asked to commit to a maximum of one hour per week during the school year with the same student. The hour consists of participating in various activities together, playing games and socializing.
While Windsor currently has a committed group of approximately 30 mentors engaged with the elementary students, the student need and desire far outweigh the support. “It’s become a very popular program,” reported Oliver Ellsworth’s Family Resource Center leader, Erin Quast. “We have many kids come in and ask if they can have a mentor.” Until more adults offer their time, they can’t.
Since its inception five years ago, the mentoring program has seen a growth of both the number of mentors and student need. Mike Greenwood, coordinator of the Windsor public schools’ mentoring program, credits the progress to the personal pleasure gained from being a mentor. “I think there’s such satisfaction from the mentor’s perspective,” he stated. “That’s why I mentor. You get a lot from it.”
The program requires minimal effort from participants, other than just showing up. Following a successful application and interview process, a background check will be conducted and applicants will be required to attend a two-hour training session. The session prepares mentors for their one-on-one time with the student by reviewing potential scenarios and discussing appropriate responses and conversational strategies. Continued support for mentors may be formally established in the future. The program works with each mentor to schedule sessions on days and times that work for them. Mentors are asked to participate once a week, sharing approximately a half hour to an hour with their student during the school’s lunch period.
Mentors are not required to have any prior experience or specific qualifications. Most critical to the success of the program and the relationship is that mentors are available and reliable. “What is most important in this relationship is being present and being consistent with your attendance, as the students will count on you to show up every week,” Greenwood stated. “Essentially, it’s a very simple program: It’s just being present for the student, acknowledging their presence, listening and being dependable.”
It’s not about how smart or strong you are, it’s about spending time with a child. Quast explained, “It’s really just about forming a relationship, a continuation.” She has witnessed firsthand the growth of relationships from week to week in various play themes and conversations.
Employees from various local companies, including ING and Alstom, have been encouraged to participate in the program by their employers. In support of their decision to volunteer as a mentor, most companies have been known to offer the flexibility in their schedules to allow the time to meet with students.
As Windsor resident and mentor David DeLeo worked with his 4th grade mentoring partner in their second year together, he said he’s still inspired by being a mentor. “I think you get as much back as you give in to it,” DeLeo stated. He hopes more adults follow his lead. “Anybody who even thinks a small amount about mentoring should really try it,” he encouraged. “Children always need someone to make a connection with, to share their trust with – and it goes a long way.”
A Mentoring Training Session will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 15 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Those interested in learning more about Windsor’s mentoring program or the Mentoring Training Session should contact Mike Greenwood at mgreenwood@windsorct.org or call 860-687-2000 ext. 266.


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