TriVillage Mentor League matches high schoolers with elementary students

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
Stevenson Elementary School first-graders Mary Kate MKinney (left) and Graham Bauer (right) play a game with Rachel Wahl at Pierce Field across from the school Oct. 19. Wahl, a sophomore at Grandview Heights High School, participates in the high school's TriVillage Mentor League's Mentoring & More program.

As a safety measure, the elementary and high school students participating in the TriVillage Mentor League's Mentoring & More program are wearing masks.

Although masks cover part of their faces, it's not difficult to see the participants also are wearing smiles during their weekly get-togethers, TVML director Joanne Taylor said.

"The younger students are always so excited to spend time with the older students," she said. "It's a big deal for them to get to visit with the high school students, who they really look up to."

Mentoring & More is an one-hour after-school program held Mondays at Stevenson Elementary School in Grandview Heights and Tuesdays at Barrington Elementary School in Upper Arlington.

The program matches students in grades 1-3 participating in the school districts' respective after-school child-care program with high school students who apply at their school to serve as mentors.

The 2020 Grandview program was underway Oct. 12, but Barrington's program won't start until the second semester in January, said Emma Berlin, the coordinator for both the Grandview and Upper Arlington programs.

"Upper Arlington is in the process of hiring a new director for their child-care program, and we decided to wait until January to give that person time to settle into their new position," she said.

The elementary students who participate in Mentoring & More attend their school's child-care program, Berlin said.

The students gather to play games, make crafts or take part in other activities each week, she said.

Last school year, about 30 elementary-age students participated in the Mentoring & More program in Grandview, Berlin said.

The number is greatly reduced this year because fewer students are participating in the after-school program, she said.

Grandview has implemented a hybrid model of learning in which all students attend in-person classes in the morning or afternoon every day. For the rest of the day, they participate in learning activities at home.

"We talked over the summer about how we could hold the mentoring program virtually if students didn't return to school," Berlin said. "We're ready to go with a virtual program if the schools have to go back to 100% remote learning."

"We would probably have crafts or other activities the students could pick up and do together from their homes while they're linked up online," she said. Five youngsters –three in first grade and two in third grade – attended the program Oct. 19 at Stevenson, Berlin said.

"The students who attend class in the morning aren't going to the afternoon child-care program, and other students have parents who are working at home these days, so they aren't going either," she said. "The number of mentees may go up as the school year goes on."

About 30 to 35 high school students signed up last year to serve as mentors in Grandview, Berlin said. 

About 12 to 15 mentors participated in the first two sessions Oct. 12 and 19, and that number likely will increase as the fall sports season comes to an end, she said.

"Last year, we'd usually have about 15 mentors working with 30 mentees in Grandview in any given week," she said. "The number fluctuates because the high school students may have sports or other obligations that keep them from coming to Mentoring & More for a while."

Last year, about 40 mentees and 20 mentors participated in the Upper Arlington program, Berlin said.

The high school students' applications must include references from two or three teachers, employers, coaches or adults who know them well, Berlin said.

Grandview Heights High School sophomore Mia Smith is participating for the second year as a mentor.

"It's really fun for me," she said. "I just really like working with younger kids. It's amazing – the tight bond that develops between the high school students and the younger kids. 

"The elementary students really become your little second-grade or third-grade friend," Smith said. "We have a lot of fun just hanging out together."

The mentoring program is giving her good experience that will be beneficial as she pursues her teaching career, she said.

"I think one of the benefits the younger students get is that we've been where they are at now – not that long ago," Smith said. 'We can relate and remember what it was like to be their age and kind of be there to help give them advice on things."

That advice is more relatable coming from someone closer to their age than an older adult, she said.

Because of the pandemic, the TVML was forced to cancel its annual Bid & Benefit event, which serves as the organization's major fundraiser.

"We use the money we earn from Bid & Benefit and our other fundraising efforts to fund our mentoring program and the scholarships we give to about two to six seniors each spring," Taylor said. "When we realized we weren't going to be able to hold our usual event, we started talking about ways we could do something online to serve as a fundraiser.

"We were really sad about having to cancel Bid & Benefit, no doubt about it. We thought a raffle would be a good substitute."

A silent auction always is part of the Bid & Benefit event and provides most of the evening's proceeds, she said.

The prize in the 2020 raffle will be a Yeti Tundra 210 cooler.

"We worked with Nutter Hardware in Upper Arlington, which has always been a big supporter of the Mentor League," Taylor said. "They were able to arrange for us to buy it at cost so that we can maximize the proceeds from the raffle."

Raffle tickets cost $25 for one ticket and $100 for five tickets.

Tickets may be purchased by emailing Taylor at Joanne.taylor@tvml.org; going online to eventbrite.com/e/trivillage-mentor-league-fundraiser-win-a-yeti-tickets-121458713281; or by using the Venmo mobile payment service – either using the 2R code on the raffle flyer the TVML is emailing to people in the Tri-Village area and distributing through a flyer drop in early November or through the Venmo app.

The drawing will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 via Facebook Live on the TriVillage Mentor League's Facebook page

"It's the same night we would have held Bid & Benefit," Taylor said.

The winner will be notified via email and/or phone. The TVML will make arrangements for delivery of the cooler.

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