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Oct 18, 2019 3:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Springs School Mentoring Program Deemed A Success

The students from the Springs School Mentor Program went with sailing with their mentors in June.  COURTESY CHRISTINE CLEARY
Oct 22, 2019 1:05 PM
By Elizabeth Vespe
Eric Casale, the Springs School principal, played chess with his first grade mentee almost every day during lunchtime. A mentorship originally meant to involve getting together every Friday had turned into an almost daily friendship.
The student would walk from the elementary school wing to Mr. Casale’s office, which is set up like a living room, with couches, chairs, airy windows and games. Some days, during recess, the two would go to the school’s large common room and play Ping-Pong, or just relax and talk about what they did over the weekend, or about schoolwork.
“For us, it’s about connecting with the kids,” Mr. Casale said of a recently established “Buddy Program,” adding that research shows students who are connected to adults at their school have better resiliency and coping skills and exhibit better character.
In the Buddy Program, students of all ages are being paired with adults, including administrators, teachers and other staff — even the principal and superintendent serve as mentors.
Last year, the school psychologist, Jacqueline Rambo, took the initiative to kick-start the mentoring program, which pairs students of all ages with mentors with similar interests. She began the program with 30 partnerships.
This year, Superintendent Debra Winter and Ms. Rambo plan to incorporate community members, as well, into the mentor program.
Frank Cole, the junior high technology teacher, said he met the student he mentors three years ago, when the boy was 11. Last year, with the assistance of the Buddy Program, his now eighth grade student challenged himself to improve his grades and himself, attending homework club and even volunteering to help younger students.
Through Mr. Cole’s mentorship, the boy started volunteering to peer-mentor several fifth-graders in woodshop. The eighth-grader helped the younger students build wooden clocks during his recess and lunch period with the help of Mr. Cole.
The boy — the school declined to share children’s names to protect their privacy — was able to serve as a Lego Robotics mentor and became an inspirational role model to the lower grades, Mr. Cole said. To cap off his year, he received the Technology Education Award, which was contributed by Apple Bank Outstanding Student Technology Education Award, at his eighth grade graduation.
Ms. Rambo explained that social and emotional well-being is the foundation for learning.
“It gives the kid an ally,” she said of the Buddy Program. “They meet with their mentor once a week for lunch throughout the year, and we also have large-group activities.” Ms. Rambo added that she personally matches up the kids based on interests and personality: for example, taking into consideration whether a kid loves art, technology or sports.
“It’s a really great experience for both. Both the student and the teacher grow a lot in the course of forming this relationship,” Ms. Rambo said.
The mentorships are a part of the New York State Mentoring Program established in 1984 by former New York State first lady Matilda Raffa Cuomo. In 2015, her son, Governor Andrew Cuomo, relaunched the program.
“There is such a strong support in the community,” Diana Urso, the state’s head of the mentoring program, said from her Hauppauge office recently.
According to the State Mentoring Program, children can succeed despite overwhelming personal, economic and structural obstacles, especially with the support of a caring mentor. Mentoring can mean increase participation in school, improve attendance, high graduation and college admission rates, and better overall performance, the program’s research shows.
Ms. Rambo added that teachers are stepping out of their everyday teaching role, and getting to know their mentees — students from first to eighth grade — on personal levels.
Whitney Riedlinger, an occupational therapist at Springs School, has been mentoring a seventh-grade boy who loves sports, but has been who has been hesitant to join an after-school sport. With encouragement from Ms. Riedlinger, he figured he’d give it a shot this year. Ms. Riedlinger said he signed up for football and is enjoying it.
“We’re learning from each other,” Ms. Riedlinger said. “I’m learning a lot from him,” she said, adding that he takes a lot of interesting trips that he tells her about.
Mr. Casale chimed in adding that it’s been a great experience for him as well. Unfortunately, the student he used to play chess with moved out of the school district, and Mr. Casale especially misses high-fiving him when they’d see each other walking through the hallway.
To celebrate the success of the Buddy Program, Springs School took the 30 students participated in the last school year to enjoy a day of sailing at the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor over the summer.
During the Breakwater Yacht Club sailing trip, Mr. Casale’s first-grader had so much fun that Springs School worked to get him a scholarship for camp so he could learn how to sail.
“You could see how excited they were,” Ms. Riedlinger said of the sailing trip. “Especially the little guys. They learned how to tie knots, sail, and got to sit at the clubhouse and have pizza. They were talking a mile a minute when they finished sailing.”
“The idea is to give the students something or someone they can connect with, even if that’s one person in the building,” Mr. Casale said of the program in general, adding that the students all benefited from and enjoyed the first year of the Buddy Program. “They had no problem coming in and talking. It almost became an every-day occurrence. You’re giving kids a connection to school whether it’s through an activity or a person. At the end of the day, that’s what school should be all about.”
Now, since the program has proven to be a hit, Ms. Rambo said, school officials would like to incorporate community members into the mentor mix. Springs School is looking for local community members, artists, business owners, parents and others to get involved. Mentors, just like teachers and administrators, are required to be fingerprinted and attend a two-hour training class before being matched one-on-one with a student.
To become a mentor, fill out the mentoring application by visiting the NYSMP website, www.ny.gov/mentoring or call 1-844-337-6304 to have an application mailed.

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A fantastic program ! Thank you Jacqueline Rambo and all the wonderful staff at Springs School for your contribution to students and the community!
By Mybenz123 (1), Benz123Southampton on Oct 21, 19 7:35 PM