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2017 Comcast Vermont Mentor of the Year Award
Thank you for participating in the 2017 Comcast Vermont Mentor of the Year voting! The voting process ended at the end of the day on Sunday, January 8. The winning mentor will be announced soon, and will receive the award at Mobius’ annual Mentoring Celebration at the Statehouse!
Meet the 2017 Comcast Mentor of the Year Award Nominees:
Name: Amy Spector
Program: Community Friends Mentoring
Length of Time with Program: 5.5 Years
Nomination: “Every mentor needs a bag of tricks.” So says Community Friends five-year mentor Amy Spector. Amy has been matched with John, now 11, since he was a kindergartener. Recently, Amy was helping orient new mentors into the Community Friends Mentoring Program and while helping the new mentors draw their idea of the perfect looking mentor, Amy drew a Santa-like toy bag slung over the back of a stick figure person. She explained that she always has what she calls her bag of tricks in the back of her car: a football, a bunch of snacks, warm boots in the winter for her mentee, and sneakers for herself. She said that she is always ready with a plan B when she is with her mentee and can pull something to do out of the back of her car if need be. Every Thursday for the last five plus years, Amy picks up her friend at school or his house and they do something special.
In addition to getting together with her mentee, Amy has volunteered her time in the office of the Community Friends Mentoring Program: A year ago, when the program lost its full time AmeriCorps VISTA member, with no hope of finding another, Amy answered the note in the newsletter asking for support and decided that she would like to help. She spends five to 10 hours a week in the office, organizing events, writing and publishing the newsletter, helping to research for grants and fundraisers, and generally staffing the office, all as a volunteer. If that wasn’t enough, she is on the Advisory Board for the program.
Community Friends Mentoring and the Howard Center are proud to nominate Amy Spector as Mentor of the Year, but would call her a “Mentor of the Heart” if we had our way!
– Catherine Shahan, Program Coordinator, Community Friends Mentoring
Name: Bryan Richheimer
Program: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bennington County
Length of Time with Program: 3 Years
Nomination: Bryan Richheimer has consistently provided time and energy to his mentees. His first community match expanded from community outings to being a facilitator for resources. He helped his mentee’s family winterize and improve the safety of their home. He also worked with the school around attendance. Eventually the youth was placed in another setting. After a small gap of time, Bryan agreed to mentor another youth. This time the match began in the school. The match soon expanded to the community and Bryan began doing lots of physical activities with Tyler who is in the 4th grade at Manchester Elementary Middle School (MEMS). Tyler has matured over the past three years and is making much better choices in his day-to-day interactions with peers and adults. Bryan has contributed greatly to this maturation. They were just featured as a “match of the month” in the Bennington Banner. Bryan has lots of energy and ideas. He helps his mentees make good decisions and he challenges them. He has encouraged their service in the community and taught them carpentry and repair skills. As the coordinator of the Northshire program in Bennington County, I am indebted to Bryan for his commitment, devotion, and belief in the power of mentorship for youth in this community.
– Sue Pierce, Northshire Mentoring Coordinator, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bennington County
(Photo courtesy of Makayla McGeeney, Bennington Banner)
Name: David Graham
Program: Grand Isle County Mentoring Program
Length of Time with Program: 2 Years
Nomination: David has been a mentor to Jacob for over two years. David first went to Jacob’s school which was a town away from him to meet. Jacob then moved and David followed him and continued to meet. Last summer they felt they wanted to continue to meet so they decided to add community based mentoring to their relationship. David and Jacob meet during the week in school as part of Grand Isle County Mentoring and then on weekends under Spectrum Mentoring. They have a wonderful relationship. Jacob is a budding naturalist and David has nurtured that interest. They have had an opportunity to do community service together at the local town park. Jacob says, “I like talking with David and hanging out with him”. David said he likes having someone to share his interests and that he is learning so much from Jacob.
– Karen Browning, Director, Grand Isle County Mentoring Program
Name: Eleanor Fisk
Program: Middlebury College Community Friends
Length of Time with Program: 4 Years
Nomination: Eleanor Fisk ‘17 joined the Community Friends program as a first-year at Middlebury College, and now as a senior, is in her fourth year meeting with her eight-year-old mentee. For three years, she has also stepped into the role as a Student Coordinator of the program. Starting last spring semester, she transitioned into the role of Lead Student Coordinator. Through this role, she spends nine hours each week supporting the program through tasks like reviewing check-ins from 55 mentor pairs, assisting with mentor training, helping to coordinate new matches, planning monthly group events formentor/mentee pairs, and supporting our mentors with everything from travel expense reimbursements to ideas for local kid-friendly events and activities. This is a tall order, and Eleanor never misses a single detail or the opportunity to strategically connect groups or individuals on campus to strengthen the program’s ability to support mentoring on Middlebury College’s campus– in addition to meeting weekly with her mentee. Eleanor never hesitates to make just one more phone call to a family we haven’t heard from recently, sit down with a mentor and brainstorm how to make a long commute work, or connect with professors or area resources to continue to foster her understanding of best practices.
Eleanor’s commitment to Community Friends is further bolstered by her academic pursuits, and she inspires others by constantly weaving in coursework and research from her Psychology major. Notably, through her own coursework on Social/Emotional Development and Children’s Loss and Grieving, she connected Professors Rob Moeller and Laura Basili, respectively, to new mentors for trainings offered this year. She also attended the VT Mentoring Symposium last April, and regularly, of her own volition, attends trainings offered to Early Education providers on topics such as “Supporting Children with Incarcerated Parents” and “Supporting Children with Parents Experiencing Divorce.”
Eleanor’s deep interest and passion for the fundamentals of youth development and mentorship leads her to always go the extra mile to help build a strong foundation for a relationship. Both as a facilitator for others’ matches, and for her own mentee, Eleanor’s care, passion, and willingness to communicate her understanding with others help to set her apart. Community Friends– and her Community Friend– is so much better for her engagement and dedication!
– Katie Carpenter, AmeriCorps VISTA, Middlebury College Center for Community Engagement
Name: Emily Bellmore
Program: Boys and Girls Club of Burlington
Length of Time with Program: 8 Years
Nomination: I have observed Emily and her mentee during the entire eight years that she has been paired with this young woman. Emily has been there for her as she has navigated through elementary to high school as well as into her teenage years which was very challenging. The empathy that Emily has demonstrated towards her mentee, who comes from a vastly different social and economic background, has been inspiring. Her commitment to developing and maintaining this relationship over this extended period of time is not only admirable, but also an amazing gift to her mentee who has been able to develop a trust with Emily that she will be there for her long term. I hope that you will recognize what Emily has contributed to this woman’s life by awarding her the Mentor of the Year Award.
-Tracy Howard, General Manager, American Flatbread Burlington Hearth
Name: Lisa Bongiorno
Program: Milton Mentors
Length of Time with Program: 3 Years
Nomination: Lisa is incredibly kind and warm, and has been a dedicated and loving presence in Tiana’s life for over three years now. She and Tiana meet regularly for all kinds of activities and have several fun, yearly traditions including participating in the Monster Mile in Milton. The joy that Tiana and Lisa find in their mentoring relationship is palpable even just in hearing about their latest endeavors. Lisa frequently mentions how impressed by Tiana she is, whether it is her ability to express herself, her politeness, or her ability to “make anything fun.” They clearly have learned a great deal from each other over the years and have grown together. In addition to being a compassionate, constant, and rock-solid mentor to Tiana, Lisa volunteers her time to strengthen our mentoring program and overall organization. She is a thoughtful and constructive addition to our Mentoring Advisory Board as well as a dedicated member of the Milton Community Youth Coalition Board. Lisa’s mentee and our program benefit hugely from her staunch support and meaningful contributions. She goes above and beyond in her commitment to support youth in our community.
– Sophie Duncan, Youth Programs Coordinator, Milton Community Youth Coalition
Name: Matthew Bubley
Program: Everybody Wins! Vermont
Length of Time with Program: 1.5 Years
Nomination: Matthew is very deeply connected and committed to his mentee in our school-based reading mentoring program. Our mentor, a graduate student attending Dartmouth locally during school year 2015-2016, had to move to Boston at the beginning of the 2016-17 year to complete his degree. He approached me at the beginning of the current school year to ask if our school-based program might allow him to continue to read with his mentee twice a month by driving back to the Upper Valley in person, and twice a month online using Skype. We subsequently created a new precedent based on his request, and this student is thriving. The mentee’s mom is beside herself with pride and gratitude, and poignantly described how her son has blossomed both socially and academically with his mentor’s commitment and investment of time and attention. Both the mentee and his mom treasure this mentor. The mentee’s teacher confirms all of my comments above when she describes the marked difference she has seen in the mentee, both socially and academically, this school year.
– Kelley Hersey, Site Coordinator at the White River School, Everybody Wins! Vermont
Name: Rhea Wilson
Program: Twinfield Together Mentoring Program
Length of Time with Program: 4 Years
Nomination: Rhea has been reading with Jordan as an Everybody Wins! mentor since Jordan has been in Kindergarten. Jordan is now in 4th grade and he and Rhea love their time together. They enjoy reading and drawing, making books and boats, and debating what books would be interesting to read. Their friendship has grown, and they are committed to seeing each other every week. Last year, while Rhea was going through chemotherapy, she still made her weekly visits to see Jordan. Her commitment and kindness is amazing, and Jordan and his family would be the first to tell you that Rhea deserves to be recognized as the best mentor in Vermont.
– Pam Quinn, Mentoring Director, Twinfield Together Mentoring Program and Everybody Wins! Vermont at Twinfield Union School
Name: Zandra Cousino
Program: Monkton Mentors
Length of Time with Program: 4 Years
Nomination: Zandra has been a school-based mentor in the program since the beginning of the Monkton Mentors program. When her much adored mentee moved away last year, Zandra eagerly offered to be re-matched and has more than risen to the occasion in supporting her mentee. Zandra shows up every week for her mentee faithfully. Despite any challenges that are happening in her own life, Zandra always puts her mentee first and focuses on her mentee’s needs. Zandra has also been a huge supporter and has provided great encouragement to me as the program coordinator. She shows up faithfully for mentoring events and trainings, and has been a support to other mentors new and old. And finally, Zandra is our mentor representative on the Monkton Mentors Advisory Board. Her input, encouragement and dedication are invaluable to me, her mentee, and the program.
– Carolyn Tatlock, Mentoring Coordinator, Monkton Mentors