I’d like to use this month’s blog to introduce someone who is making a difference and you may not even know her name. She’s Sarah Mitchell of the Bristol Public School.Her official title is Community Communications Coordinator at the Bristol Board of Education. She was reaching out to see if me or any other realtors might want to get involved with the nearly-30-year-old school Caring About People Mentoring Program, where adults from a variety of industries come into the Bristol Public Schools once a week, around lunchtime, and spend an hour with a student who needs them.
Sarah was hired into her “jack of all trades” position last September. “It’s a combination of being a community outreach liaison, development … doing grant writing, newsletters, pictures and fostering partnerships within the schools. It’s really a creative position all around.” She also oversees programs like the WOW Mobile mobile lending library in the summer and the middle school robotics challenge. Sarah’s background in creative, non-profit and development-based areas uniquely prepared her for this position.
One of Sarah’s favorite things about her job is hearing back from the mentors when they had their year-end thank you for being a mentor event at Nuchies in June. “Just hearing the stories from the adults saying we did this together or this student is reading better or has a better grasp on what’s going on or I got to meet all his friends because we all ate lunch together. It impacts more than just the life of that student. You hear the stories of where these children are growing up and the situations and problems they deal with which is eye opening. You hear about them but it doesn’t feel real. This makes it more real.”
The mentoring program encourages the student and mentor to move through the grades together, some all the way through high school. Some mentors have more than one student. Teachers see the changes in the students by having a positive role model who take the time to spend with them. While any child’s family can request they participate, it’s usually a joint decision between teachers, guidance counselors and other staff. The children come from a full range of socio economic and domestic background, some have behavioral or socialization issues that create a need for the students to have that extra adult helping hand throughout the school year. Mentoring starts as early as first grade.
Mentors all have to apply and go through a background check and one-on-one training. They are then matched through a process based on communication style, activity level, needs, etc., and if the match doesn’t work, the program will rematch those with a better fit. Some mentors will bring craft or school supplies for activities but no specific gift giving is allowed or encouraged, and the mentor doesn’t deal directly with the family or guardians of the student. Yearly agreements and permission slips are signed and the program starts in September with kickoff parties in each school.
Activities are self-directed depending on what each student wants or needs from the mentor. “some do homework or reading, play board games or just to talk or see if there’s a certain social skill set needing work,” Sarah said. “We have had good luck with ESPN, Webster Bank, Bristol Hospital, school admins, etc. We are still looking for companies with a community service component built into their job descriptions. Right now the district is about 50 mentors short for the 2018-2019 school year, so the summer is a big recruitment time for me. The number we received may even go up as the school year starts.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IF YOU’RE INTERESTED:
- Mentors do NOT have to be Bristol residents but people who work in the area are preferred, since they’ll have to plan visits to the school in around lunchtime once a week.
- There are no special requirements for education or income, but mentors must be over 21 with a clean background check.
- Mentors can come from any industry, but the program is especially seeking more young professionals, as currently, they mostly have retirees.
- The need for men is crucial. Sometimes middle / high school young men are more comfortable with another man as a mentor
- There are no restrictions on sexual orientation or gender identity and mentors must be willing to work with children from diverse backgrounds, including some who are not gender binary or conforming.
- The program takes place in all 12 schools and even outplacement programs like adult education / the alternative high school
- If they choose, mentors can state a preference for a certain grade level they or school they prefer (for example, one that is close to their workplace)
For more information or to apply to be a mentor, contact: Sarah Mitchell, Community Communications Coordinator, Mentoring, Bristol Public Schools Board of Education 129 Church Street, P.O. Box 450,Bristol, CT 06011 firstname.lastname@example.org | 860.584.7043
Sarah Johnson was born and raised in Bristol. She is a writer and a REALTOR® licensed in Connecticut, affiliated with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, New England Properties in Farmington. She has been writing about and selling real estate since 2011. www.sarahsellscthomes.com 860-462-3196