One-to-One Mentoring Program is Fun for Mentors and Mentees
Second-year medical students from the University at Buffalo head back to elementary school every Tuesday afternoon for a mentoring program that is helping them as much as it is helping some fourth- and fifth-graders at Windermere Boulevard Elementary School.
As a piece in the elementary school's strategic plan, the one-to-one mentoring program pairs up an elementary student with a UB student for an hour each week. Windermere was selected to participate in the New York Mentoring program, a statewide initiative that was born from the vision of Matilda Raffa Cuomo, the mother of Gov. Mario Cuomo.
The program began at Windermere last year and ran for four months in the spring. This school year the program started in October and will continue through May for selected students in fourth- and fifth-grades. This year's UB medical students were trained by a state program coordinator to be well prepared to work one-on-one with elementary-age students.
"Our school is so lucky to have been selected to participate in this program," said Melissa Stasio, a school counselor at Windermere Boulevard who oversees the program. "Our students are enthusiastic and engaged. The students and mentors participate in whole group and mentor-partner activities. The partnership and trust built through the one-to-one relationship is evident!"
The reaction from the elementary mentees shows how much they love the program. When asked to write down why they like working with their UB mentor, a fifth-grade boy wrote, "I like working with my UB mentor because we get to have fun together."
A fourth-grade girl wrote that she got to make "slime" with her UB mentor and make bracelets. Others wrote that they enjoyed time playing games together and being outside on the playground. Several wrote that their UB mentors have helped them develop ways to be nicer to others.
Iain Thompson, one of the UB mentors, writes, "I believe the focus on the mentees is what makes the program so special. We help with homework, talk and foster interest in both curricular and extra-curricular activities. I feel that getting one-on-one time with my mentee has given him an outlet where the focus is on him. It's an opportunity to make him feel heard and valued."
Anjali Sood, another UB mentee, writes, "I think it's important for kids to have good older role models who can impress upon them the value of education and working well with others. I think they appreciate having someone they can count on seeing every week who is there solely to spend time with them and give them their devoted attention for a period of time."
For the medical students, Tuesday afternoons provide a break from their demanding coursework. "As much as we are here to support the kids, being able to turn it off for an hour and have fun is one of my favorite parts of the week as well," writes UB’s Sood. "This gives me a break outside of the daily schedule of studying," writes UB’s Thompson, adding that it is a lot of fun to just relax, have fun with kids and become their friend.