Mentor program celebrates school year with bowling field trip
By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Jun. 14, 2013
The East Hartford mentor program celebrated the end of the school year with a bowling field trip to Silver Lanes Bowling Alley on Wednesday, June 12. The field trip was an opportunity to recognize the 25 students and their mentors and the quality time that they have spent together over the past school year.
The mentorship program has been in place in East Hartford for about 25 years and matches students in grades three through six with adult mentors. The students who are enrolled in this program are identified by teachers and support staff as children who are socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged.
“It’s just nice that they can have somebody they can talk to,” said Penny Brice, the manager of the East Hartford mentor program. “They discuss social behaviors, the importance of school. They talk about problems that they might be having that they might not want to talk with anybody else about because this is not a parent, it’s not a teacher, it’s not a coach, it’s not clergy; it’s really a friend.”
The mentors in the program represent a wide variety of backgrounds including professionals from Pratt & Whitney, Webster Bank, United Technologies Research Company and United Health Care. There are also school district employees, college students and retirees who volunteer their time to meet once a week with students at their school for lunch.
The goal of the program is to “increase the successful school completion ratio and to reduce the dropout rate for elementary, middle and high school levels,” explained Brice. Brice is not only the manager of the East Hartford mentor program, but she has also been a mentor in the program.
“It’s different to be talking about it and then actually to be doing it, because you just get a sense of fulfillment and pride from the relationship,” explained Brice. “It’s just nice to watch them grow and learn and be successful. It’s very rewarding.”
Rewarding for both parties involved – the students and the mentors. “Mentors benefit so much from it,” said Brice. Typically the mentors who work in corporations will leave their workplace during lunch once a week to meet the students at their school and after they are done with lunch the mentors come back completely energized, said Brice.
“They have a new perspective on what’s going on with their work and life and working with youngsters,” added Brice. Usually mentors will be paired with a student in third grade with the idea that they follow them through the different grades – and some relationships even last through high school and beyond.
Brice says one the best success stories of the program involves East Hartford resident John Carella and his mentee. When Carella first started working with the student who was in third grade at the time, the boy was “like a wallflower” according to Brice, but over the years and with the help of the program the child “just opened up into this beautiful flower,” said Brice.
Carella had such an impact on the child’s life that as the boy got older he would even go to the guidance counselor at the beginning of the school year and ask if Carella was coming by. The two developed a bond that lasted through the student’s high school years and beyond.
For more information on the East Hartford mentor program, you can contact Penny Brice at 860-622-5976.