Writing a check to support a cause is a perfectly acceptable way to donate to non-profits and charities. It takes about one minute to write, can be for any amount, and it will go directly towards supporting a worthy cause.
But for 55 adults in the Wakefield community who serve as adult mentors for Wakefield students, their donation is exactly the reverse - very little money, much more time.
Through the Wakefield Adult Mentoring program, which is associated, although not funded, through the , adult volunteers are paired up with students with the expectation that the pair will meet in-school for an hour once a week.
“It gives members of the community a chance to make a real one-on-one impact with a student,” said Paul Simpson, assistant director of the program, which began in Wakefield in 2002. “The kids who are involved aren’t bad kids, it’s just kids who need an extra person to listen to them.”
One of those kids who needed some extra help along the way was Katie Crockett. Crockett, who is now 20 and a student at North Shore Community College, started in the mentoring program in 6th grade at , at age 12.
“One of my teachers told me about [the mentoring program],” Crockett said. “They thought it would be good for me because of my family situation, and told me to give it a try. I ended up loving it.”
Crockett, who was being raised by her grandparnts, was paired up with Lynne Zervas, who joined the program almost serendipitously. A Wakefield resident and Director of Chapter Support Services for the Northeast Dollars for Scholars, which helps set up non-profits like the CSF of Wakefield, she attended a presentation by Robert Eldridge, director of the Wakefield Adult Mentoring program, to see if the mentoring program was worth bringing to other communities. The rest is history.
“I went to the meeting, and Bob is a persuasive guy,” she said. “I signed up, took the training, and that fall when the initial matchups were done, I was matched up with Katie,” she said.
The first meeting and initial meetings after that between student and mentor were nerve-wracking, said the pair.
“Everyone had butterflies in their stomachs,” Zervas said. “It was far more emotional then I had anticipated.”
“I was very shy back then, and since I was so young, we couldn’t really do anything outside of school,” said Crockett. “We would hang out in the library in the Galvin and play cards. But we began to talk more and more, and now we’re really close.”
As Crocket grew, Zervas’ role changed. When Crocket reached high school the two would go out for ice cream or take a trip to Barnes and Noble and Chili’s to celebrate both of their birthdays.
“In September, I started going to college, so we don’t see each other as much anymore, but we text and email, and whenever I’m in town we get together for ice cream or coffee or whatever we feel like doing,” Crockett said.
Benefits on Both Sides
Zervas said her role as mentor isn’t about helping Crockett with her homework – she’s always been a great student, said Zervas – and Crockett said Zervas’ role isn’t as a parent – she sees her more as an outside family friend, said Crockett.
“She makes sure to look out for my best interest,” Crockett said. “She helped me fill out my FAFSA forms, or my taxes, or anything I need help with, I know I can call her. It’s good to have someone as an outsider to see things from an outside perspective. She really is a mentor.”
Zervas said getting to know Crockett and developing the relationship to the point where Crockett knows she’s always available and can count on her for anything has been the most important and rewarding aspect of the mentoring process.
“She knows that there is nothing she can do or say that would be a dealbreaker,” Zervas said. “That gives me a lot of satisfaction because I know she feels safe.”
The Program Itself
After a mentor is accepted into the program, he or she must complete a 2-hour training, then wait to be matched with students in need of mentors through the Galvin Middle School Guidance Department.
Simpson said that although the mentoring program hosts a few program-wide events each year, such as an end-of-the-year cookout and bowling day at the but the emphasis is put on time spent with the mentee.
“We don’t have a monthly mentor meeting,” he said. “We really minimize the number of times we meet with you because we want you to spend your time with the kid,” he said.
Crockett said she would definitely recommend the program to others.
“It gives you a break from your normal hectic life, and you get to relax and get to know someone, and if you let yourself develop your relationship like the one me and Lynn have, it could really benefit you,” she said. “It gets better every year that you grow up, and you teach each other valuable life lessons.”