January 6, 2020
A mentoring program at the Berkshire Family YMCA in North Adams is looking for more adults to be mentors to local students. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Carolyn Brooks at 323.243-3413.
Carolyn Brooks, the coordinator of a student mentoring program at the Berkshire Family YMCA in North Adams, Mass., said that the initiative, now in its second year, is doing well. Part of that success, she said, can be attributed to alumni of the College.
“Our most successful mentors are MCLA grads,” said Brooks. “They’re close to the community and have chosen to stay.”
The grant for the mentoring program, put together by the Berkshire Compact for Education, was written specifically with local eighth graders in mind, as it can be a challenging year for young people both socially and academically. The program hopes to expand into the seventh grade, as well as follow its current students as they transition into their freshmen year of high school.
One of the things the program needs to expand is more mentors. “I find the mentor first and then I find the kid,” said Brooks. “I work hard to see that the fit is going to be right.”
Administrators and counselors from McCann Technical School, Drury High School, and Drury’s E3 Academy suggest students who may benefit from having a successful adult in their life, one who is not a family member, who can provide new perspectives and experiences.
As for mentors, Brooks said they are usually professionals who’ve gone to college, but that it’s not a requirement. The program is looking for people ages 20-35 who are happy in their lives and interested in sharing that knowledge with others. Mentors should be able to commit to the program for one year, meeting with their student each Wednesday, from 3-4:15 p.m., at the North Adams YMCA, and taking one Saturday field trip a month. All events are free for students and mentors, and a free YMCA membership is available to each mentor.
The small cohort of current students and mentors have come to know each other well, said Brooks. Projects have included tree trimming for a Habitat for Humanity auction, a scavenger hunt at Williams College, a trip to Ramblewild, and rides on the Berkshire Scenic Railway’s Tinseliner train. Each pair decides what they wish to focus on, with the adults tuning in to what interests the kids.
Christopher Hantman ’14, coordinator of civic engagement and volunteer programs at MCLA, became a mentor this fall. He said his student is fascinated with trains, and the two talk about potential career paths based on that interest. “His other big passion is helping people,” said Hantman, “and that’s where we’ve found common ground.” The pair also both love video games and play online together, discussing how their day is going. “We use YMCA as a hub but we try to meet [the students] where they’re at and pursue their interests in constructive ways,” Hantman said. “It’s been very rewarding to get to know this teenager. We have a lot in common and I consider him a friend.”
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Carolyn Brooks at 323.243-3413.
Are you an MCLA student, alum, or faculty member? Do you want MCLA to share your story? Please email Creative and Brand Strategy Manager Francesca Olsen at Francesca.Olsen@mcla.edu.