Mentoring and the Library: Stronger Together

By Barbara Brown

There is a wonderful program in Grand Isle County known as the Grand Isle County Mentoring Program. Begun in 2009, students in the local schools are paired or matched with an adult from the community. The matched pairs meet in the school buildings for about an hour a week and play games, share snacks, cook, read books and have conversations. Each year the group hosts a Game Night where the mentor pairs meet to participate in tournaments and eat pizza. There is an annual outing at the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center held in conjunction with other mentoring programs in the area.

Mentoring has proven results for children and adults who make the commitment to meet and spend time together and the Grand Isle County Mentoring program has been extremely successful. The program is school-based, which means that the pairs meet on school property. They are given access to school facilities, such as classrooms, playgrounds, kitchens, gyms and libraries when those spaces are available. Once students  graduate from their elementary schools they are no longer permitted to meet on school grounds. Luckily many of the children in the program are offered an opportunity to transition to a community-based mentoring program. Pairs are able to maintain the strong bonds that they have developed and continue to influence each other in positive ways.

Finding opportunities for maintaining the mentoring relationship presents challenges. Meeting space in Grand Isle County is quite limited, and many of the matches would love to have a place for quiet conversation or to engage in some of the fun activities they previously enjoyed. Adolescents also have particular needs and some of the activities that appeal to younger children have less relevance for upper middle school and high school students. Those who want assistance with challenging homework assignments, opportunities to do research on the internet, or help writing college applications have a hard time finding space to engage in these activities.

The new South Hero Public Library is preparing to offer exciting solutions to the challenge of finding places for mentor pairs to meet. The library is aiming to break ground on a new building in 2018 to enable expansion of library programs and services and serve as a center for our community. The new building will supply spacious, comfortable seating areas that take advantage of the natural beauty of the island setting. The technologically up-to-date infrastructure will offer high speed internet connections, access to computers and printers and research and reference materials.

There will also be spacious meeting areas available for public use, and the Mentoring Program will be able to hold essential meetings and training sessions. “We are so pleased at the prospect of having this fabulous space at our disposal,” said Karen Browning, GIC Mentoring coordinator. Mentor/match pairs interviewed for this article are excited about maintaining their relationships and their connection to the Island. “I love spending time with my mentor,” said one student. “We do so many fun things together.” Mentors have expressed their pleasure as well. “There are so few public spaces where you can go and spend time without being pressured to buy something,” said one mentor. “Libraries offer free meeting space. It is a great message for the kids. We do not always have to spend money to have a good time.”

The new South Hero Library building will be built without taxpayer dollars. Commitments for $1.3 million have already been secured towards a goal of a $1.5 million building fund. The library needs your help to raise the remaining $200,000. Find out more about this campaign at https://soherolibrary.wordpress.com/. You can make a secure gift online by visiting http://bit.ly/MakeAGIft. Every donation to the building fund will go to create a community space that programs like GIC Mentoring can use.

You can also learn about upcoming library programs and services for both children and adults at the library website, southherolibrary.org, by visiting the library at 75 South Street, South Hero and by calling the library at 802-372-6209.

Visit www.gicmentoring.org for more information about how you can become a mentor or otherwise support the Grand Isle County Mentoring Program

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