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At Riverhead Middle School, a program to pair kids with mentors

In an effort to improve relations between students and adults, one Riverhead administrator is introducing a mentoring program to her school. 

Riverhead Middle School principal Andrea Pekar said she reached out to Mentor New York to establish a volunteer-based program for select seventh- and eighth-graders. The non-academic program focuses on getting children more connected with their school and community.

“I always say to my teachers, ‘It’s not just about the curriculum, it’s about making relationships,’” Ms. Pekar said. “So I think one of the most important things is for us to identify students who need to make those relationships, and to really get to the core of who they are, so that we can really help them move forward.”

So far, about 45 middle school teachers, faculty and administrators have volunteered to participate in the program. In order to become a mentor, adults had to attend a training course at Mentor New York’s office in Hauppauge. Additionally, staff members from Mentor New York visited the middle school to explain to the entire staff what the mentorship program is all about.

All of the workshops given by the non-profit at Hauppauge, as well as the presentation at the middle school, were provided free of charge, Ms. Pekar said.

The volunteer mentors identified approximately 140 seventh- and eighth-graders who could benefit from a mentorship program. The next step is to gain parental permission to have them participate.

Mentorship would occur throughout the school day and the school hopes to place each volunteer mentor with two students. This means teachers would meet with them during lunch and free periods. Ms. Pekar said she hopes to have students meet with their assigned mentor once or twice a week.

“We just want to build relationships with a number of students that just maybe are, for some reason, disconnected,” she said. “That’s really our goal right now, to try to identify those students and get them better connected in the school community and, from there, hopefully it just kind of builds.”

The plan is to have the program fully up and running this spring.

Caption: Riverhead Middle School principal Andrea Pekar at a school board meeting in 2014. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

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