Education News

Program connects mentors with kids

THROUGH EVERYBODY WINS! local students and their mentors spend time together reading, playing games, and getting to know each other, to the benefit of all. The program is seeking mentors for this academic year.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Urang, Mary Hogan School

ADDISON COUNTY — Everybody Wins! Vermont, a long-running mentoring program to promote literacy, needs more mentors interested in improving the lives of area kids. Everybody Wins! Vermont has mentoring programs at schools around the state, including Mary Hogan, Bridport Central School, and Neshobe. Local mentor Laura Asermily describes Everybody Wins as a “delicious chance to exchange a love of reading with a young person you watch grow in skill before your eyes.”

Everybody Wins helps to fill the need that all children have for one-on-one attention from a caring adult, while helping them develop a love of books and reading. In the program, local elementary school students, who self-nominate to be matched with a mentor, are paired with an adult from the community. These pairs come together once a week over the student’s lunch and recess period to get to know one another while reading and playing games together. That one hour a week can make a big difference in the life of a child. One Mary Hogan student described their mentor by saying “She was a good listener. She laughed and she was kind. She was helpful. She was someone who cared.” 

Parents and teachers agree that kids are benefiting from participating in Everybody Wins! In an annual survey for the program, 78% of responding parents in the Mary Hogan program said they saw improvement in their child’s confidence in reading after their participation in Everybody Wins and 88% of parents surveyed at Neshobe said the program helped their child read better. A teacher a Bridport Central school said “It plays an important role to engage students and give them a boost or build a connection that isn’t always possible to create within the school structure.”

And it’s not just students who benefit from participating in Everybody Wins! Vermont. When asked about his experience with Everybody Wins, Mary Hogan mentor Ron Monroe said “I enjoy so many things about mentoring. When I first enter Mary Hogan, even before I meet up with my mentee, I enjoy the energy that the whole school exudes as I happen to arrive when teachers, with students in tow, are in the hallways heading off to the cafeteria. When some students wave hi to me and I wave hi back, just because I’m in the hallway with them, that just makes my day!

When reading to my mentee, I am struck by how much he enjoys hearing and following the story, always coming up with a question about the plot or a comment about a character that only comes from close attention along with careful thought. He and I can connect over the story or while talking about what he has done in the past week, or what he’ll be doing in the weekend to come. He sometimes asks me questions about my life too. I enjoy having this brief weekly contact with him. For a moment I feel rejuvenated and not so old as I sometimes do and also comforted by the possibility that I make a small yet significant difference in his life, just as he does in mine.”

Monroe, despite having been a teacher in his professional life, said that he initially felt some concern about being able to find common ground with a third grader, but that in the end he found that “for the most part, the story is the shared experience, certainly at first, and from there we have found other common ground as we discover some shared life experiences, both past or present.”

All three of the local Everybody Wins! Vermont programs have been in operation for many years — Mary Hogan since 2002, Neshobe since 2004 and Bridport since 2013 — but all are now working to rebuild their programs following COVID school closures and visitor restrictions. At Mary Hogan, a program which at times has had as many as 60 mentors only four mentors initially returned when schools first started allowing mentors in the building again. While numbers have increased as restrictions lighten, there is still work to be done to get these programs back to pre-pandemic numbers.

Local author and mentor Jack Mayer shared his thoughts for those considering joining Everybody Wins!, “Children benefit from a friend and a mentor. When I was growing up I had mine, and now I’m privileged to pay it forward with my Mary Hogan student. We read to each other, we play games, we talk, we laugh, we enjoy our unique connection. I derive such gratification and fulfillment from weekly meetings with my guy. This is how we repair the world — person to person — the fabric of community. And community is what binds us together as friends, family, town, nation, and planet. You can do this too. As Winnie the Pooh so wisely observed, “All this bumbling means something.”

If you are interested in applying to mentor with Everybody Wins!, Vermont at one of our local schools you can apply by visiting the Everybody Wins! Vermont website; or you can reach out to local coordinators; Sarah Urang at Mary Hogan ([email protected]) and Chris Allen at Bridport and Neshobe ([email protected] and [email protected]) with any questions.

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