AHM Lanterns Mentoring a mutually beneficial relationship

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Jan. 21, 2014
Mentors with mentees and family members at a holiday party at AHM. They are (clockwise from bottom right): Lauren, her mentor Bonnie Hutchins, Jane James, Irving James, Annette Morrison, Samantha Morrison, Ginny James and Allison McHugh. Courtesy photos. - Contributed Photo

For more than a decade, the AHM Youth and Family Services Lanterns Mentoring program has been matching up young people from local towns with caring, responsible adults. “There are children in the local schools in crucial need of adult role models and friends to help them navigate the sometimes tough job of being a child in the world today,” said program coordinator Laurie Larsen.

Larsen is currently recruiting mentors, because all current mentors are assigned to students and there are new children constantly being referred to the program. “I need to have a pool of trained mentors ready so no child has to wait a long time to begin the mentoring process,” said Larsen. Larsen views the administration and staff of the schools in all three AHM towns as partners in the mentoring program. “They recognize the importance of the mentoring program in the schools and the great difference it can make in a child's life,” she said.

January is National Mentoring Month. In recognition of the important role mentoring programs play in Connecticut towns, Gov. Dannell Malloy released the following statement: “Mentoring is a proven, effective strategy that helps young people by matching them with a caring, responsible adult who can provide guidance and help build confidence. Mentors encourage success, lift expectations and expand the universe of a child, serving as friends, role models, teachers and sources of stability and support. Mentoring strengthens Connecticut's economic and social well-being by helping young people fulfill their potential, maintain healthy families, and promote more vibrant communities.  Many residents of Connecticut, supported by private and public sector organizations, are making a profound difference every day in the lives of our young people by serving as mentors.”

The AHM Youth and Family Services Lanterns Mentoring Program is a school-based program that arranges for adults to meet with children once a week in the supportive role of friend and listener. Mentors meet with their students in the local schools, usually during lunch and recess time. All mentors are provided with training, and assistance is available at all times.

Mentor Mark Hand learned about the program through a presentation at his church. He is in his third term with the same mentee, a young man who is currently a student in the fifth grade. “The idea is you stay with the student until they get to a point in their schooling where they don’t have the time to meet with you anymore,” said Hand. Hand and his mentee eat lunch together at school, and participate in a variety of activities such as kickball, soccer, basketball, board games and projects.

“Right now we’re building a boat in a bottle together,” said Hand. Hand says he continues to be involved because the program is so meaningful. “I think it’s important for him to have someone who is not a parent or authority figure to be a role model,” said Hand. Hand said he feels that the impact of the program has the potential to spread out beyond just a handful of people.

“I feel that our community as a whole is better off when kids have good role models,” he said. And the commitment required is minimal, he added. The required background check and training take minimal time. And then, “In exchange for one hour a week of my time, I make a huge difference in the life of a child,” said Hand.

Carla Pomprowicz has been involved with the mentoring program for 14 years, and has been partnered with a number of different children. Her current mentee is 17 years old, and has been partnered with Pomprowicz since the eighth grade. She has even expressed an interest in becoming a mentor herself once she graduates from high school. “You can’t get a bigger compliment than that,” said Pomprowicz.

The pair meets at a local library after school, “and we just have a great friendship,” said Pomprowicz. Typical activities include playing cards, reading magazines together, doing crafts or browsing the library’s movie collection. “It’s nothing that’s super fantastic, just one-on-one time,” said Pomprowicz. “And I look forward to it as much as she does.”

Both Pomprowicz and Hand encourage other potential volunteers to get involved with Lanterns. “It’s a great way for a mature adult to get back in touch with the youth,” said Pomprowicz, “and you can do so much good in such a short amount of time through this program.”

Mentors are needed in elementary school in Andover, Marlborough and Hebron. If you are interested in exploring the Lanterns Mentoring program, contact Laurie Larsen, AHM Lanterns mentoring coordinator, at 860-228-0871 or lauriel@ahmyouth.org.

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