STARKSBORO - One hour a week with a caring adult friend can make a huge difference in the life of a child. Starksboro's Robinson Elementary School is helping adults and children alike realize the value of a special friendship through their one-of-a kind mentoring program tailored for the Starksboro community.
Mentoring is an ancient concept that has its roots in Greek mythology, when Odysseus entrusted the care of his son to his elderly friend Mentor before he left for the Trojan War. Today a mentor may still be defined at "an experienced and trusted advisor". Basically, a youth mentoring program pairs a child with an older person who becomes a listening ear and a helping hand - a friend.
The Starksboro Mentoring Program has become somewhat a local model of successful mentoring. Currently there are 23 mentors paired with 23 children, or "mentees". The program is coordinated by Amy Johnston, Robinson Elementary School's Guidance Counselor, with support from Assistant Coordinator Peg Pifer. It is a hybrid program, meaning that unlike many other mentoring programs it offers a range of flexibility in activities and venues. Most mentoring programs in larger areas require that mentor and mentee meet only at designated location, such as the sponsoring school, for a specified length of time. Starksboro's program allows much more flexibility. The mentor has the option of either meeting in school or taking the student off campus, depending on the agreement that has been reached with the child's teachers and parents or guardians. This allows for a broader, richer range of activities; they might go for a hike, or out for pizza or go shopping or to the movies. In addition, many mentors welcome the child into their homes where they do crafts, bake, tend animals or garden - whatever the two are comfortable doing together.