Mentor pairs are back, to delight of area kids and MOVE volunteers
Area children and families and their Saint Michael’s College student volunteer partners are thrilled by the return this year of in-person mentoring-mentee pairs, say staff leaders Lara Scott and Ryan Hay ‘19 of MOVE, the community service arm of Edmundite Campus Ministry.
MOVE is an acronym for Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts. “We have four formal youth mentoring programs,” said Scott, the MOVE director, adding that Assistant Director Hay most directly advises these long popular mentor-pairing programs: Little Brothers Little Sisters, Middle School Mentors, International Outreach Mentoring, and DREAM.
Scott said another related program, “Family Friends” with longtime partners, Burlington’s Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS), brings students together with families at the COTS’ Burlington locations rather than on campus and just with individual youth, as with the four direct one-on-one mentor programs.
“The youth partners are returning to campus for activities as before the pandemic, enjoying the campus space, eating dinner with our students, using the library, and just experiencing campus with mentors and having fun,” Scott said. “I think this is the first time in a while that all four are running with matched pairs in person on campus and it’s great to see them back with all that positive energy they bring.”
She estimates that about 30 Saint Michael’s students are active this year in these mentor programs, which pair them with area youth, each with a different focus. “Slowly it’s been building back after the pandemic since at its peak during my time here at St. Mike’s a few years before the pandemic when we had nearly 100 college students participating,” Scott said.
About the mentor-pair programs
Little Brothers Little Sisters: The mission and purpose of Little Brother/Little Sister is for youth in the Winooski area to have an additional positive role model in their life. “By matching Littles with a Big for three to four years, we hope that they will be able to build a strong relationship based on fun, trust, and reliability,” said Hay.
Little Brother/Little Sister (LBLS) is a collaborative mentoring program between the JFK Elementary School in Winooski and Saint Michael’s College. The children (Littles) are first through fifth graders and are nominated by their parents, teachers or guidance counselors to participate in the program. Littles come to the St. Mike’s campus about three hours each week to play in the gym, read in the library, play games, and eat in the cafeteria on a one-on-one basis or in small groups.
“We also have other events and some field trips throughout the year,” said Hay. Mentoring with Little Brother/Little Sister requires an application and interview as well as a 3-4 year commitment to the program. Applications are available in September.
Middle School Mentors: The mission and purpose of Middle School Mentors (MSM) is to provide a positive and safe environment for middle school-aged girls, establishing positive relationships between mentors and their mentees from neighboring Winooski through both individual and group gatherings.
Volunteers are role models to the youth and work one-on-one, as well as in groups, with them on a weekly basis. Activities include art projects, mini-golf trips, general games and special events through the year. Middle School Mentors accepts female identified mentors for the program and requires a weekly commitment with the mentees. “The relationships volunteers provide are greatly appreciated and their positive effect on the youth is clearly visible,” said Scott.
Mentoring with Middle School Mentors requires an application and interview as well as a multi-year commitment to the program. Applications are available in September.
International Outreach Mentoring: The mission and purpose of International Outreach is to build and foster lasting relationships among the youth of refugee families and college students in the spirit of Saint Michael’s commitment for social justice and the preservation of human dignity through higher education and service.
“Through the commitment and volunteerism of Saint Michael’s students, we work with a local school to provide mentoring relationships to young local refugees and provide opportunities for character and intellectual growth,” said Hay. This MOVE program began by promoting integration between Saint Michael’s students and international students on campus.
“We now collaborate with the Winooski schools and have developed our program to include weekly one-on-one and group activities and fun with the mentees at St. Mike’s,” Hay said. Mentoring with International Outreach requires an application and interview as well as a multi-year commitment to the program.
DREAM: The mission and purpose of DREAM is to build communities of families and college students that support children from disadvantaged circumstances to recognize opportunities, make informed decisions, and realize their dreams. Founded in 1999 by Dartmouth College students, DREAM is a non-profit mentoring program that pairs college students with children living in affordable housing developments in Vermont.
DREAM stands for Directing through Recreation, Education, Adventure, and Mentoring. “We hope to form and develop genuine connections between students, children, parents, and the greater Burlington community,” said Hay. “Through this relationship we seek to empower our mentees through the belief in the power of a loving and understanding committed relationship.”
This program facilitates activities such as arts and crafts, sports, apple picking, visits to the Saint Michael’s fire and rescue station and more, along with other events and field trips throughout the year. Mentoring with DREAM requires an application and interview as well as a four-year commitment to the program.
Family Friends (with COTS):
The purpose of Family Friends is “to provide support to COTS Family Shelters through facilitating activities for the children and forming positive connections with families while forming relationships with those we work with in a mutually beneficial way,” Hay said.
Family Friends also hopes to bring a broader understanding of homelessness through education and awareness to the surrounding community, he said. Family Friends brings volunteers to COTS Family Shelter and offers other volunteer opportunities such as donation drives and fundraising. Volunteers engage in activities and provide companionship for children of many ages temporarily housed in the shelter with their families. Students interested in this program are asked to make a commitment to participate in an ongoing way to assist in building strong relationships with the children.
For partner activities with families at COTS, students usually travel in a van together to the COTS house in Burlington where they interact with families in the facility’s living room, said Hay, who started work at Saint Michael’s this past summer as assistant director of Edmundite Campus Ministry Community Service after being an active MOVE volunteer as a student.
Hay also mentioned that Mentor Day is a tradition in MOVE that has been on hold due to COVID. This event brings together all four of MOVE’s mentor programs to have a few hours of fun together on campus. “We will have bounce houses, food, lawn games, face paint and more,” he said of this event, which will be on the 300s field next Friday, April 21, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., or in Tarrant if bad weather.