The Power of Peer Mentoring
“Lanee started out really shy and quiet but as the year went on, she started talking to more kids.” When Emma met her mentee Lanee, the 8-year-old didn’t interact much with the other kids at Club M mentoring in Burlington. High school freshman Emma was determined to help Lanee get out of her comfort zone and make friends. She got to know the shy girl during Club M doing school work or playing games outside. “We both like outdoors activities,” says Emma, listing hopscotch, chalk, foursquare, jump rope, and bubbles as some of their favorites.
Emma encouraged her to try new things and by the end of the school year, Lanee was inviting other kids to join her and Emma in games and activities. “She’s very welcoming and inclusive and just really nice to the kids,” Emma says. “Even if they don’t play well or aren’t very nice, she’s nice to them.”
Near the end of the year, Club M Burlington director Cassie Gerst organized a trip for mentors and mentees to visit nearby schools and talk to children about mentoring. Cassie hoped to introduce the concept of mentoring to new schools. Lanee and Emma went on the trip and the once-shy Lanee talked with new children and encouraged them to get involved in mentoring.
Emma initially got involved in Club M after several of friends signed up. After a year of getting to know Lanee and mentoring with Club M, Emma has begun to realize that she has passion for working with young children, especially in teaching them new skills and encouraging them to try something new. “This is the first year the program was at our school,” Emma tells me. “Ms. Gerst is always so positive. She hangs out with kids and gets to know them, encouraging them to keep coming until she can find a mentor for them.” They worked hard to start Club M in Burlington, and with the help of Lanee, Emma, and the other mentors and mentees, they are trying to expand Club M in more Burlington schools.
Find more information on youth peer mentoring programs here.