Mentoring really matters.

That’s what everyone involved with the school district’s T.E.A.M. Tuskers program says.

For the kids, it’s a safe, nonjudgmental space where they can be seen and heard by a supportive, friendly adult.

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For the grown-ups, many of whom are former teachers, it’s a new link to the school community and a way to understand the challenges today’s youngsters are facing.

The program was started seven years ago with six kids and six mentors. Today there are more than 60, according to coordinator Midge Miller.

Dozens of them got together at the Somers Middle School on Tuesday, Jan. 21, to mark National Mentoring Month with cake, snacks, socializing and games.

All of the mentors were recognized for their contributions, but special mention was made of the five who’ve been with the program since the beginning: Shelly Hanner, Leigh Jones, Ric Peace, Ruth Rosenberg and Barbara Silvestri.

Quoting Oprah Winfrey, schools Superintendent Dr. Raymond Blanch told the crowd: “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”

Coincidentally, that was what was etched in red icing on the cake.

Blanch, who came from a big family, recalled the love and guidance he got from his own grandfather. He gave him hope about himself and who he “could be,” the superintendent said, adding, “Whenever I struggle, I think about him.”

The mentor can become the mentee and vice versa. One day, the T.E.A.M. Tuskers’ kids will be able to pay it forward.

Mentors agreed Tuesday that the students themselves deserve a lot of credit.

It takes time—and it’s not easy—to establish new relationships, but they are invested and seem happy to have a place where they’re heard and understood without being judged, they said.

“All of them have been great,” said Hanner.

One seventh-grader, calling his mentor “kind and funny,” said they do something different each time they meet—“Talk. See what’s happening. Share feelings about it.”

“If it gets boring, we play dominoes, stuff like that. So fun.”

WHO ARE MENTORS?
Somers’ mentors have a wide variety of life experiences. They are retired teachers, social workers, physical therapists, bankers, nurses, realtors, landscape architects, police officers, photographers, pilots, business owners, lawyers, financiers and stay-at-home parents.
 

HOW DOES IT WORK?
Each third- through eighth-grader is matched with an adult in the community. The volunteers are interviewed, screened, fingerprinted and trained before they begin working with their students. The meetings are held one hour a week, every week during the school year. They take place in dedicated spaces on school grounds—at Somers Middle School or Somers Intermediate School—before classes start, during lunch and after dismissal. Rooms are equipped with games, puzzles, art supplies, sports equipment and places to chat and share snacks. Each school has a coordinator and the program is overseen by administrative staff.
 

WHY DOES MENTORING MATTER?
According to the district, research has shown that adolescents who receive support from three or more “non-parent adults” do better in school, make healthier choices in life and go on to contribute to their communities in positive ways.
Having a mentor improves social and emotional well-being and self-esteem. It relieves stress, improves decision-making skills and strengthens resilience. Kids with difficult problems or victims of trauma also develop better relationships with their families.

TO JOIN UP
If you are interested, please visit somersschools.org/teamtuskers; email teamtuskersmentoring@gmail.com, or call 914-481-2716.