David Craig of Keene sits with his new mentee, Joseph Wilson of grade 5.
Excitement peaked as students and new mentors checked in to the “Meet the Mentors” event Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Keene Central School.
Sixteen Keene students from grades 5 and 6 met with members of the community who will be their mentors for the rest of the school year.
The students applied in June for their mentor, and over the last few months, school officials have taken on the challenge of finding the right student and mentor match for the past six years. The committee members were Alice Bouttee, mentor coordinator; Harry Fine, dean of students; and Cynthia Johnson, superintendent and principal of the Keene Central School.
“We are so fortunate to have a superintendent and principal who is very familiar with the students and parents, and I know the community members,” Boutte said. “Mrs. Johnson started the program, and we have successfully matched kids with mentors who have formed long-term friendships for years after they met in the program.”
Tenth grader Peter Craig has had the same mentor since the program began six years ago. He came to the event to show support for his parents, who were taking on new mentees this year.
“It’s been a really good time,” he said. “I get to do a lot of stuff I wouldn’t normally get to do and me and my mentor, Hope Stone, have a lot in common,” Craig said.
Craig’s father, David, met his new mentee Joseph Wilson, of grade 5. Wilson said he hoped his mentor would like to do outdoor activities with him. The two bonded over shared talents. Joseph shared his hidden talent called “chameleon eyes,” going cross-eyed. In turn, David shared his talent, he can have his eyes go in two different directions.
The faculty set up the lobby of the Keene Central School to resemble a cafe atmosphere with punch and cookies. The first part of the meeting session, after students and parents met their mentors, was filled with paperwork or “busy work,” as Boutte called it. The busy work is meant to help the students, parents, and mentors break the ice so they can establish a common understanding, boundaries, and also sign a promise to try and meet once a week for an hour on school property.
“The mentorship is a way for kids to get oriented to a new relationship and learn new things,” Boutte said.”We have kids who have had the same mentor for five years and we have seen about an 80 percent success rate in the mentor-mentee relationships we’ve set up.”
During the second part of the meeting session, the staff created a board where they brainstormed with the students about trip ideas for them to take, and they outlined different goals students had about what they would like to get out of their mentor.
Through the mentor program, students and their mentors agree to meet for one hour once a week for the entire school year. As a group, students and their mentors go on trips during the year. Last year, for example, the group went bowling and saw a movie.
This year, Boutte said the group won’t just try to set goals of where students would like to go with this program but what the students would like to get out of this program.
“Our goal with this program is to try to stimulate their imaginations and emphasize not just what sort of trip they want to take with the program but more emphasis on what they’d like to do,” Boutte said.
Boutte said other school districts have inquired about utilizing her services as mentor coordinator and hope to incorporate a program similar to the Keene program.