Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIII, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Mentor Program receives record 170 applicants


With a record number of 170 student applicants, the Whitman Mentor Program is busting at the seams –– and the organizers could not be happier.

“There are so many Whitman students involved –– over 10% of the student population. We are happy because the biggest problem is getting people to commit,” Mentor Program Intern, sophomore Rachel Sicheneder, said.

The mentor program is unique in its non-academic nature. Instead of focusing on meeting standards, local elementary-age youth are matched with a college-age companion solely to interact and bond.

“The one-on-one time the mentors spend with the students here is a special time for them because someone is concentrating on them. It encourages them in all sorts of ways and the mentors can give them extra input in areas of difficulty. It’s like a big friend, a big brother or sister,” Barbara Thatcher, the Intervention Specialist at Green Park Elementary School, said.

The Whitman student’s companion-like role makes the program enjoyable both for the children and for the college students.
“The best part is, you aren’t helping them by being a counselor, or a teacher, or a security guard. Instead, you are being a friend,” senior Shayna Tivona said.

Although the Mentor Program has a relaxed nature, Whitman students are given the opportunity to speak into the lives of at-risk children who may otherwise lack a positive adult role model.

“Students are often referred by the teachers or other staff members. One reason might be that they have difficulty making friends or in social interactions with their peers. Many are from a single-parent family so they wouldn’t have that male or female role model. Sometimes they may not have confidence in their abilities or self-esteem,” Thatcher said.

This program is important to adults who work with these children on a daily basis. Whitman mentors help compensate for the inevitable limitations of educational field workers.

“I had a student who was in third grade when he first started having a mentor and was constantly getting into trouble on playground and classroom – his attitude wasn’t very positive. We matched him with a mentor who was very positive, very encouraging, and I think it made a really big difference in this boy’s behavior,” Thatcher said.

Because the mentor program focuses on positive interaction instead of rehabilitation or counseling, the changes in elementary-age mentees are not always this apparent –– but the impact is no less significant.

“I think the fact that the mentees have an older person they can confide in and depend upon to show up once a week is very positive. A lot of these kids experience a lack of stability in other parts of their lives. Having a cool college friend who is always going to be there that one day a week is something they can rely on and look forward to,” junior Jacqueline Kamm said.

This one-on-one attention is a valuable component to the development of the students’ self-esteem and success in the classroom. Even if the students do not always let on to their appreciation, it means a lot to them.

“Last spring when it was time for me to go home for the summer, I told her that I wouldn’t be seeing her for a while and she got kind of quiet and told me she wasn’t happy that I was leaving. I had to cheer her up afterwards. I had no idea she liked me that much!” Kamm said.

Not only do Whitman students engage their sense of civic responsibility through the Mentor Program, but it is simply a fun time.

“You can make a difference, and it only takes one hour each week!” Tivona said. “Plus you can play tetherball, four square, and tag. How awesome is that?”

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