This year, 28 staff members at CV Starr Intermediate School signed up to be part of the school’s mentorship program. Run by school psychologist Diane LaMorte and third grade teacher Allison Mooney, the program seeks to build relationships between students and adults, enhance their social relationships, build confidence and more.
While the program always has been a bright spot, it has been especially important during the pandemic.
“There's a lot of social emotional needs coming from the pandemic,” LaMorte said. “We have students who have had a hard time coming back, but knowing that there is that consistent adult they are going to meet with every week for 20 to 30 minutes helps.”
Teachers nominate students who they think will benefit from a mentor and, after getting parental permission, the students are thoughtfully paired with an adult in the building — from another teacher or an aide to the School Resource Officer or a monitor. The pair will then meet weekly and spend time together doing things like playing games, going for a walk or reading a book together.
“A lot of times children talk when they're doing something like building or coloring,” LaMorte said. “It's a way of feeling connected with the adult. I think the adults benefit too. I definitely do.”
LaMorte was careful to point out the sessions are meant to be spent listening.
“It's not counseling. We're not trying to solve a problem,” she said. “We're being a buddy. We are not tutoring. We are not teaching. We do not have to get our multiplication facts down. It's a nice balance all around for the adults and the kids.”
Mooney noted how meaningful it is for students.
“Having that person who they can turn to — even if they just see them in the hallway and say hello — makes them feel special and safe and confident,” she said.
Feedback from past mentors and parents of mentees support her point.
“Last year I ate lunch weekly with my student mentee,” one mentor said. “It was so nice to be able to sit and talk to the student about his hobbies, interests, and new baby sister. When we saw each other in the hallways, we would say, ‘See you on Wednesday!’ It was a great experience for the both of us, and I look forward to mentoring another student this year."
Parents have noted how much their children enjoy the program.
“My child enjoyed her mentor very much,” one parent said. “It made her feel that it was her special time with her special friend.”
LaMorte and Mooney are thrilled to be able to offer the program this year after having to take a hiatus last year. Mooney even got teary eyed when she saw how many people signed up to be mentors.
“It's nice to see people going out of their way to do kind things,” she said. “It's so important and I don’t think we fully realize how important and meaningful it is for these kids.”