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Mentoring Progam Lights Up Mount Kisco Elementary

Third-grade teacher Jason Wein and school psychologist Melissa Gilbert run a mentoring program at Mount Kisco Elementary School.
Third-grade teacher Jason Wein and school psychologist Melissa Gilbert run a mentoring program at Mount Kisco Elementary School. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- Kids in need have a person to turn to at Mount Kisco Elementary School.

The school is continuing its mentoring program, which it launched in 2011. Kids in need of emotional support or having behavioral issues are given the chance to meet with someone at the school on a weekly basis.

"We have a lot of diverse students," school psychologist Melanie Gilbert said. "Some students need help in making good choices. They often don't have parental support."

The mentoring program is about providing the kids with social support rather than academic support. The mentors all volunteers from the district, from the principal on down to secretaries and custodians.

About 35 kids and volunteers are in the program.

"We used to have more, but not everyone has the time and not all kids fit the profile," Gilbert said. "We have a very focused criteria."

Mentors meet with students during their lunch hour or before and after school. Some students meet during class time.

"They get to really know the kids," said Jason Wein, a third-grade teacher and mentor. "The kids see you as someone who cares about them and singles them out."

The meetings are all about remaining positive as mentors have no disciplinary role, which differentiates them from classroom teachers.

"They will take a walk or have lunch with them," Wein said. "Maybe sit with them during recess."

Wein took his student to the library to check out books about reptiles when he complained of not having books to read.

"I will make sure he has enough reading material," Wein said.

The mentoring program has seen many bonding moments. The student paired up with the custodian got to have a positive role model and they bonded over their love of NASCAR.

"He used that to motivate the kid," Wein said. "He would tell him that to be a race car driver you have to be disciplined, which the kid didn't have. It had a real impact. The program did wonders  for him."

Secretaries and other people who don't get to interact with students as much looked forward to joining the program and having a positive impact on someone.

"We've gotten great feedback," Wein said. "We have people waiting to be mentors."

Wein said the kids love the attention and knowing someone out there cares about them. The pizza parties periodically thrown don't hurt either.

"The mentors help give them that extra push," Wein said. "They often come from a place where not many people take interest. We set goals for the year and have great conversations."

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