During the last few weeks, the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership started up for the 2011 school year. With much anticipation, five students at Norwood Elementary School met with their mentors for the first time after summer vacation on Thursday morning.
“I was waiting the whole entire summer just to see him,” Christian Santiago, 11, a sixth grader said of his mentor, Tim Forsberg. “We like to play basketball, kickball, and just play sports in general together.”
Forsberg, the office coordinator for the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, said it’s important for children to have a mentor, especially when they are at a pivotal age, as Christian is. Once they reach their teenage years, their time constraints change and more demands are placed on them.
“It takes a positive influence to help them through it,” Forsberg said. “The program is worthwhile and great for the community. It means a great deal to me to be able to do this. It’s giving back to a community that’s given me a lot in the past to help a child through life’s challenges.”
Marc Mainville, the Marketing and Recruitment Specialist for the Partnership, agrees. He said while the main goal of the program is to provide guidance to children, the mentors benefit from it as much as the mentees. Not only does he work for the Partnership, he’s a mentor, as well.
“You just feel so energetic after meeting with your mentee,” Mainville said. “You get the chance to help a child by just being a friend and being friendly is always a nice thing. You think back to being a kid and you remember how hard it is to make friends. It’s nice for them to have somebody to bounce ideas off of and talk with about different things.”
His mentee, Tyler Robbio, 10, a fifth grader, said he was excited when greeted by Mainville. The two have known each other for three years.
“I wasn’t a big fan of hockey until I met Marc,” Tyler said. “I didn’t even know what hockey was. Now, I watch the Boston Bruins. I like to cheer for them. We also play basketball and read books.”
Like Tyler, sixth grader Jaymen Gilroy, 11, enjoys playing sports with his mentor, Bob Rebussini, the CEO of Integrated Financial Partners, Inc. in Chapel View in Cranston.
“We play games in the gym,” Jaymen said.
Rebussini said, “We throw the football around and shoot baskets. He plays baseball so I help him with pitching. I also help him with his homework and we talk about what’s bothering him and different ways to handle any issues he may be dealing with.”
Rebussini also said being a mentor is rewarding for both the mentor and mentee. He has learned a few things from Jaymen in the last year they have been working together.
“He is the complete opposite of me,” said Rebussini. “I’m a Type A personality and he’s more withdrawn, but we found a common ground and made a lot of progress as the year went on. It’s amazing what a little one-on-one can do. It makes me feel better about myself. It’s very self-fulfilling.”
Steve Savard of RBS Citizens Bank also is a mentor. His mentee, sixth grader, John Ware, 11, said he enjoys meeting with Savard.
“My favorite part of having a mentor is getting the chance to talk about stuff and hang out,” Ware said.
Fifth grader Molly Brown, 10, agrees. She said she loves chatting with her mentor, Nancy Lewis, a retired medical secretary.
“We talk about our families and how they are different from each other,” said Molly. “I like talking with her and doing arts and crafts.”
Lewis, who has been a mentor for four years, enjoys her time with Molly, as well. She said she is happy she is able to be a friend to Molly.
“I look forward to seeing her each week,” said Lewis. “It feels good knowing I’m helping her work things out. We truly enjoy each other’s company. I bring crafts and she gets really into it. We’ll probably do something for Halloween.”
According to Mainville, the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership of Warwick, Woonsocket and Newport serve as support agencies for nearly 80 mentoring programs in the state. They help train mentors, assist with recruitment, and market the mentoring concept.
“People don’t need any special skills to be a mentor,” Mainville said. “They have to complete a training session and pass a background check. You’re here to be a friend and confidant.”
This year, the Partnership is starting a literacy program for children in grades kindergarten through three in order to enhance their reading skills, increase comprehension and help them to develop a love of reading. It will pair mentors with youth to assist in these capacities and requires additional training sessions. Available sessions are on Oct. 4 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Oct. 6 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Oct. 18 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.; and Oct. 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. For more information about training, including locations, contact Pam Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org.