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Focus on Education
by Jessica Brophy
When Deer Isle-Stonington High School Learning Center Coordinator Amanda Poyant heard the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program would be discontinued at the Island schools, she decided to pilot a mentoring program matching upperclassmen with students at the elementary school.
“Mentoring has been a big part of my life,” said Poyant. “Kids can really benefit from it.”
Poyant petitioned Todd West, high school principal, and Mike Benjamin, elementary school principal, to start the program. Both were supportive.
The next step was to develop a training manual and program for mentors, which included six seniors and one sophomore. Training included how to be an effective listener and proper policy and procedure for interacting with younger students. After training and signed permission slips, the mentor/mentee relationships began.
Last year, there were seven mentors and eight mentees, ranging from first to eighth grade.
“They developed a strong bond,” said Poyant, who held “check-ins” with mentors on a regular basis to find out how the program was going.
“I’m really proud of how they balanced school work and this,” she continued.
Poyant plans to tweak the program and its training, but “keep things simple,” she said. She’ll encourage interested upperclassmen to contact her when school starts again.
One of the best parts of the program was how well it showcased the abilities of the mentors. Poyant said it was also good to see some high school students not typically in the spotlight step up to the plate.
“The students at the high school are capable of understanding and growing,” said Poyant. “They have special things to share.”