By Jess Wisloski
For 26 years, Connecting Youth has worked in the Chittenden South School District to try and create community ties with young people just as they’re starting to face exposure to drugs and alcohol, and to help them develop ways of coping with stress and frustration as their teen years approach.
Long in place for middle schoolers, the CY mentoring program this year aimed to expand to give older kids a way to meet and connect with community mentors. While in middle school, kids would connect with a mentor within the structure of a school day, establishing mentor relationships with students in high school was a new venture for the organization this fall.
“CSSU students have very limited access to formal mentoring services after 8th grade and those who want to continue beyond that point are frequently unable to maintain the relationship due to lack of existing programs or other supports,” said Christine Lloyd-Newberry, the director of CY in a recent press release. “It only makes sense for us to support those relationships through high school.”
That’s where Amanda Payne, the CY coordinator for CVU, came in. “Since this is it’s first year, we’ve been trying to be fairly intentional,” she said, and started with 10 mentorship pairs that were already working together in middle school. “Now they’re pairs in high school,” she said. “We’d like to expand it to people who didn’t necessarily have a mentor in middle school, but could use one in high school.”
When asked what a community mentor can offer to older students, she said a lot of it is just exposure to interesting hobbies or skills.
“They meet weekly, and whether it’s going for a walk or going out bowling, the point for them is to just spend quality time together and also expose students to new things that they wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to,” she said.
Sometimes mentors take the students out of their home community to show them around the area, and in other cases they stay put and expand their minds with new projects. “One pair is doing a woodworking project together, another is taking a motor apart,” she said, for examples of what the partnerships involve.
Payne said she hopes to get more mentors interested in working with high schoolers and furthering the organization’s mission: “To promote a culture that develops in our youth the power and conviction to make healthy choices…[and] encourage a “no-use” community norm around alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by young people.”
Payne, who has more than a decade of experience organizing youth, said her great hope is to raise visibility of the program.
“I just want folks in the community to know it exists – we’ll probably be taking new pairs in the springtime, but I do want people to contact me if they’re interested and I can talk to them about a potential match.”
While it can be hard to get high-schoolers to take initiative in scheduling with mentors, she said with a little hand-holding the CVU program has worked well. “These students have a very strong relationship with their mentors, so they want to keep that going.”
For more information, contact Amanda Payne at CVU at 522-0613, firstname.lastname@example.org or Christine Lloyd-Newberry, CY Director, 383-1211, email@example.com or visit seewhy.info.