Letter to the editor: Becoming a mentor is helpful and empowering

KIM CALLAHAN ACCOMPANIES her MAUSD mentee at Bristol holiday festivities.
Photo courtesy of MAUSD Mentor program

January is National Mentor Month, and I am writing to express and share the joy and fulfillment of being a mentor in the MAUSD mentor program with the hope that others in the community will consider joining or supporting this important program. MAUSD helps to foster and build relationships between district students and community members through mentor/mentee matches in the elementary schools, and the Mt. Abe middle and high school.

Mentoring is a community strengthening endeavor that enriches the lives of all involved. MAUSD programs in Bristol, Monkton, Starksboro, New Haven help connect interested adult volunteers with kids who benefit from these one-on-one connections. As a community mentor for the last four years, the benefits of connecting with a local student and creating a lifetime of memories has been immeasurable. I met my mentee when she was in third grade, and now as a sixth grader we have found a variety of activities and interests we enjoy sharing with one another and have been able to forge a relationship that is built on trust, kindness, respect and appreciation for the time we get to spend together.

There are currently 82 matches in the MAUSD’s four towns who meet with their mentees to enjoy conversation and lunch at school or to work on shared art projects, play outdoors, do farm chores, craft and recreate together. Many of us have cultivated shared interests like painting, mechanics, skiing, climbing, hiking, and making music. There are so many community events that I might not otherwise attend but having a young friend to share in our rich local culture has been a gift for me. I always come away with a feeling of gratitude for the opportunity to spend time with a young person who is forming her hopes and dreams and ideas for the future. And thankful for her willingness to share all of these with me.

Research has shown that students with mentors have increased high school graduation rates, lower high school dropout rates, healthier relationships and lifestyle choices, better attitude about school, higher college enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations, enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence, improved behavior, both at home and at school, stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers, improved interpersonal skills and a decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use. 

Many kids, adults and families are reaching out for this kind of connection. At a time where we all feel more divided and isolated than ever, mentoring has provided me with a link to my community that I miss from the time when our own kids were at our local school. I’m not sure that there is a more important asset to us all than the promise of our youngest community members. It is hard to imagine a better way we can show our support and make a difference in our communities than to be a mentor. I am thankful to MAUSD- the administrators, the teachers, the families and the volunteers who support this work in our schools and our communities. And I hope anyone looking to make a real difference in the lives of our kids will consider becoming a mentor.

Kim Callahan

New Haven

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