Whitman Mentor Program struggles to meet demand

Mentees arm wrestle at last February's Mentees to Campus Day. The annual event, which lets the mentees  come to their mentor's school, also features mini golf, fishing for prizes, and popcorn. Credit: Norman

Mentees arm wrestle at last February's Mentees to Campus Day. The annual event, which lets the mentees come to their mentor's school, also features mini golf, fishing for prizes, and popcorn. Credit: Norman

Sophomore Mary Allain is excited to return to her mentor this week.

“I can’t wait to see how she’s doing,” said Allain, who will be mentoring the same student again this year.

About 165 student mentors spend one lunchtime each week at one of Walla Walla’s elementary or middle schools. According to statistics collected by MENTOR, a national philanthropy project, children with mentors are less likely to have attendance problems and abuse substances and are more likely to attend college.

“We have a lot of great mentors but it just never is enough for how many mentees there are,” said senior Molly Carroll. Carroll is one of two student mentor interns, along with senior Enrica Maffucci.

For the past week Carroll and Maffucci have worked diligently to match mentor applicants to mentees from the six local public elementary schools and the two middle schools.

The children are suggested to the mentor program by either an intervention specialist or a teacher for various reasons, including learning disorders and issues at home.

“We all make a really big difference,” Allain said.

The ultimate decision to have a mentor rests with the child. Most are eager to have someone to look up to.

“The intervention specialist at Sharpstein [Elementary School] would get notes from students saying that they want a mentor,” said Carroll.

Allain’s relationship with her mentee has become very close. Once a week she goes to the local school to spend time with her mentee during lunch break.

A mentee selects a prize from the prize booth at last year's Mentees to  Campus Day. Credit: Norman

A mentee selects a prize from the prize booth at last year's Mentees to Campus Day. Credit: Norman

“She eats her lunch so fast so that we can go out on the playground,” Allain said.

To form a strong relationship took time. When Allain first met her mentee at the beginning of last year, she felt that her visits took away from time her mentee could be spending with other children. A few months later, Allain found that her persistence paid off.

“She started to really confide in me about things that were happening in her life,” said Allain. “She always has this big smile on her face when I come, even if she was having a bad day.”

Allain has been able to watch her mentee grow more self-confident.

One week out of the school year it is the mentees that travel to Whitman. The mentor-mentee pairs spend time at the Mentees to Campus Day carnival celebration held in Reid Campus Center.

Carroll describes the mentors as the “celebrities on campus” at the local schools.

The Mentor Program is no longer accepting applications for this semester but may re-open applications in the spring semester.




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