Thu, 09 Jun 2005

Baldwin School district celebrates the value of mentors - Herald Papers

Baldwin School district celebrates the value of mentors

By Jason Scheer June 09, 2005 - Herald Newspapers

In an increasingly complex world, kids, more than ever, need somebody to look up to. Occasionally they find such a person. On Wednesday June 1, the Baldwin School District hosted the Fourth Annual Mentor Recognition Dinner. The event celebrated the relationships of 33 students who have reached out for comfort and companionship and the adults who answered the call by giving their time and hearts to Baldwin youth.
Pat Banhazl and Pat Sherman are the School to Career Coordinators at the high school and middle school, respectively. They explained the benefits of having a mentor in the life of a child in need of guidance.
"The [students in this program] needed a friend," Banhazl said. "Not a tutor, not a teacher, not a parent. Someone, an adult friend, that would be caring. [That would] talk to them, ask them what their hobbies are and what their favorite book was. [Mentors] really encourage them."
During the celebration, which included dinner, desert and a ceremony in which students expressed their thanks by way of a gift, four graduating seniors spelled out what their mentors mean to them.
Sarah Morales praised her mentor, Christina Clement, crediting her with putting her life back on track. "I wanted to change myself," Morales said. "[Mentoring] helped me a lot, it’s changed me a lot. I needed someone to talk to and I didn’t have that. I needed someone to trust and [Clement] came into my life as a friend."
The two met almost daily for the school year, engaging in everything from serious discussions to playful joking. Clement says she has seen a dramatic change in Morales since they first met.
"She really started to open up about a lot of things," Clement said of Morales, "her life, her friends, her experiences at school and her family. Anything that she wanted to talk about.
"From the first time I met her she seemed focused. But [because of the program] she took a lot of personal developmental steps to do what she has to do in life and in school."
Morales wasn’t the only one to find value in the relationship.
"I look forward to coming here and seeing Sarah," Clement said. "It’s something I always think about doing. When I don’t see her, I think about her a lot. She’s really a friend to me. "It makes me feel good to hear [that I helped.] If it’s helping her, it helps me."
Many of the 33 mentors are volunteers from State Farm Insurance. Others, however, are community members and school district personnel who generously gave of their time. Assistant superintendent Michael Roccoforte praised the volunteers for making a difference.
"Mentoring dramatically and unequivocally gives credence to the expression ’It is better to give than to receive,’" he said. "And what can be more enduring than a gift from the heart?"
Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), who attended the event, said mentors play a valuable role in today’s society."There is a need for more mentorship throughout our communities," Abrahams said. "[Mentoring] inspires young people, who may not be getting the guidance from home or possibly throughout their lives, and it gives the people that want to provide that guidance the opportunity to do so." He added, "in this day and age, with the influx of gangs and school violence, I really do applaud the Baldwin School District for putting this program together. This is the biggest way to combat gangs and to provide role models."
Students who would like a mentor are encouraged to contact their guidance counselor. As for prospective volunteers, they are urged to contact the Mentoring Partnership of Long Island at (631)761-7800.

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