April 24, 2020

Miami Valley mentoring program adapting despite COVID-19


DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF-WRGT) -- According to Youth.Gov youth mentoring has several benefits, including increased high school graduation rates, healthier relationships and enhanced self-esteem. Now, a Miami Valley mentoring program is now trying to figure out how to help students at local school districts now that school is closed for the rest of the school year.

Many students disappointed they would not get to say goodbye to their friends and teachers, but the mentoring program director at the Miami Valley Leadership Foundation, Shannon Todd, says hundreds in the Miami Valley also did not get closure with their mentors.

"Our biggest goal is bringing a caring adult into the lives of kids in the Miami Valley," Todd says. 

Todd says they work with several local school districts, pairing students in need with adult mentors. Right now they serve more than 300 students in the Miami Valley including those at Mad River Local Schools, Northmont City Schools, and Miamisburg City Schools. They also have two after school STEM Clubs in Dayton Public Schools. There are 76 active mentors volunteering in the school-based programs. 

"Our mentors like to follow their kids to the next grade so we have mentors who have been with their kids for 3-4 years," Todd said. 

Those mentors go through two hours of training; a part of the training is learning to say goodbye at the end of the school year. Sylvia Miller says she usually meets with an elementary student once a week for an hour, she says the lack of closure has been hard.

"She’s very affectionate she’s so happy to see me when I go to her school," Miller said. "I'm just concerned we won’t be able to wrap up this spring you know and say goodbye to one another." 

"For this there was no closure, it literally was one week playing games hanging out with their mentor and then the next week it was no more," Todd said. 

Todd says they are now working on ways to keep the mentors and mentees connected.

"We sent out a mass email to our mentors and said hey do you want to write a letter to your mentee and I’ve sent out now 49 letters from our mentors," Todd said. 

They are also working with school districts to set up e-mentoring so students and mentors can talk online for weekly visits. The Mad River Local School District Superintendent, Chad Wyen says these relationships are important to maintain.

"This is the missing piece of the one caring adult that we’ve worked really hard to make sure we placed into their lives," Wyen said. "The mentors have just developed a great relationship with these students." 

Families in the program should start hearing from schools in the coming weeks, but in the meantime they have the following message: 

"We just want to encourage them that hope knows no quarantine," Todd says. 

The Miami Valley Leadership Foundation says every school they serve has students on the waiting list – hoping for a mentor.

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