BRISTOL - The school districtâ€™s mentor program has about 120 adults who volunteer to help students but there are at least another 50 students who are in need of mentors, according to Sarah Mitchell, program coordinator.
Mitchell hosted the annual Caring About People Mentor Recognition Luncheon Thursday at Nuchieâ€™s. Max Corvo was named Mentor of the Year for his work with a student at Mountain View Elementary School and Michael Audette received the Fred Soliani Award for mentoring a student at West Bristol K-8 School.
â€śIâ€™ve had the opportunity to meet some of you, provide training, and listen to many of your stories,â€ť Mitchell told the room full of mentors. â€śThe work you do is amazing and I just want to say thank you.â€ť
The mentors are not doing it for the recognition, she said. â€śYou are not mentoring because your employer is telling you to, you are not mentoring to keep yourself busy. You are mentoring because you know young people, now more than ever, need a caring adult in their lives. Youâ€™re doing this for the kids.â€ť
Mitchell took over the program last September when Audetteâ€™s wife, Jeanine, retired. She especially thanked all the school staff who act as building coordinators for the program, and also their principals.
â€śWithout your support my first year I would have been lost. I have sent what seems like millions of emails asking all sorts of questions, and you have provided me so much insight into the program, and the needs at each of your schools,â€ť she said.
Corvoâ€™s mentee, Ethan, who is a student at Mountain View, read a speech about his mentor.
â€śHe talks to me when Iâ€™m upset, he plays games with me and he is very fun,â€ť Ethan said. â€śHe comes once a week and spends an hour with me. He gives presents and not a lot of mentors do that. He gives me cards so I can write to him in the summer. He is the best mentor ever. He is very nice and friendly, so I just want to say thank you.â€ť
Corvo said mentoring is easy because he enjoys spending time with Ethan so much.
â€śThereâ€™s not a day when I leave Mountain View that Iâ€™m not smiling and feeling better,â€ť he said. â€śSo as much of a gift as Iâ€™m grateful to be able to give to Ethan, the gift of friendship, the gift of a little bit of time, I receive the gift many times over.â€ť
The building coordinators for West Bristol K-8 School are Sarah Holmes, lead parent educator at the Family Resource Center, and Lisa Mastrianni, school guidance counselor. They introduced Audette, who served as West Bristolâ€™s principal until retiring in 2015, and previously was principal at the old Oâ€™Connell Elementary School.
They described Audette as â€śone of the most kind spirited, generous, committed, caring, genuine, witty, approachable, down to earth, understanding and considerate people we have ever known.â€ť
Audette has mentored Kiefer at West Bristol for four years, and has previously mentored a number of other students. Holmes and Mastrianni said he has been â€śa huge supportâ€ť to Keifer and his grandparents, since Keifer lost his own parents at a young age.
Audette, who was visibly moved by the award, said it was difficult for Kiefer to accept him at first because he had been the boyâ€™s principal for years.
â€śIt took a while for him to actually see me as a friend,â€ť he said. â€śSo while weâ€™re starting to have some breakthroughs, and he did ask me to stay with him [as mentor] for the next four years. We worked hard to get him to go to tech school because he did get wait listed at first. I said he canâ€™t be wait listed. Youâ€™ve got to understand this young man has no parents, and his grandparents are in their 80s, so in four years he has to be independent.â€ť
Audette noted that he felt especially proud and humble to get the award named for Fred Soliani, who was the mentor programâ€™s co-founder.
â€śI knew Fred 21 years ago, he was the interim principal at Oâ€™Connell when I started,â€ť Audette recalled. â€śWhatâ€™s unique about Fred was every classroom we visited he could tell me an anecdotal story about the students in that classroom, and so that had an impact on me, and the type of principal I wanted to be.â€ť
â€śWe need more mentors,â€ť Superintendent Susan Moreau said. â€śTell someone and then theyâ€™ll tell someone and then theyâ€™ll tell someone. Mentors please share how wonderful you feel when you mentor your child, because we need probably about 400. It is an hour a week or less, depending on the age of the child, and we have more and more children that need that support.â€ť
For more information about the school mentor program, call Sarah Mitchell at 860-584-7043.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.