There’s nothing like having someone to look up to, even if you’re looking at them on a screen.
The mentoring program at Bell Elementary has continued this year, as ten 4th and 5th grade students meet with mentors via Zoom each Thursday. The mentees started the program in 3rd grade, so each mentee has been with his or her mentor for the last two or three years.
“Our mentors are wonderful positive role models for the students encouraging them to do and be their best selves academically, socially, and emotionally,” said Bell Elementary school counselor Lori Fisher. “I love seeing the students’ eyes light up when their mentors log onto our Zoom meetings. Every Thursday my room is filled with students learning, laughing, and truly enjoying the strong positive bond they’ve developed with their mentors.”
Each mentor session starts with a social-emotional check-in and continues with relationship-building and character-education activities. For example, mentors and mentees have fun playing board games virtually.
“I currently mentor two amazing children that have the biggest hearts and always put a smile on my face. I have seen growth in both of them since beginning our work together in October,” said mentor Lily Coots, a second-year student in Binghamton University’s Master of Social Work program.
“I like Mentor Club because I get to talk to my mentor. I get to express my feelings to my mentor. Plus, my mentor is one of my best friends,” said 5th grader Alexa Ventura.
Mentoring continued during school closure last spring via weekly Zoom meetings. Mentoring throughout school closure and virtually this year has allowed mentees to consistently stay connected with their mentors, and provided an additional layer of stability and support during these times.
“I really like my mentor because she is funny. Mentoring Club has taught me to be nice to others and not get so angry,” said 5th grader Alannah Batzel.
Coots recalls one story that illustrates how much one of her mentees has grown. It began with a walk outside of the school.
“She pointed out that a certain spot would be nice to eat lunch outside, and there was enough room for her and her classmates without breaking social distance guidelines. I encouraged her to share that, and as soon as we got back into the building, she ran right up to the school social worker and said, ‘I think this would be a really good idea,’” said Coots. “This is something she would have really struggled to do at the beginning of the year, but now she is totally crushing it.”
Fisher sees the impact these mentors are having on students first-hand.
“(They are) a consistent, stable, and encouraging person in the lives of these students, especially when so much of the world around us is uncertain and unstable,” said Fisher.