BENNINGTON, VT - Alyssa and Selena were first paired together during Alyssa’s freshman year, in 2019. Alyssa remembers her mentee as a whirlwind of energy right from the start. She laughs at the initial tone of their relationship: a communal effort, since Selena (who was around 6 at the time) was young and loved to share moments with all of the mentors. Then, the pandemic began
and everyone retreated to their homes, where participation in activities was limited to online interaction or the ability to meet in-person allowed by campuses or local governments. It was only after the pandemic began to recede, and after months of only intermittent contact over messaging and checking in with family, did Alyssa realize how much she meant to Selena. “She immediately glowed up,” she remembers, on her first in-person meeting with Selena last fall. “It was really sweet, because I didn’t know if she would remember that I was her special person.” This year Selena and Alyssa have spent lots of time together to make up for the pause of the pandemic. While older mentees were able to keep in contact with their mentors using their own technology, because Selena was so young Alyssa navigated her meetings with Selena with her parents, asking about how she was doing or the rare Zoom call. Now, the two go on regular walks through the countryside around Bennington together and have become much closer.
Alyssa describes Selena’s expression of possessiveness about their relationship, particularly in regards to Selena’s twin. “I think she feels a need to set herself apart and form her own identity,” Alyssa said, “So sometimes she just pulls me aside and says lets go by ourselves somewhere.” Some special moments recently have been a visit to a thrift shop where Selena chose outfits for Alyssa and makes her wear whatever she picks out (“She likes having influence over an adult” Alyssa laughs) and when Alyssa cut her hand during an activity Selena immediately cradled it and asked how she could help. Small gestures of intimacy and care like this have flourished in their relationship, and Alyssa is excited for the time they can spend together in the future.