By Bruce G. Perlow, Senior Youth Service Director
VERMONT - The Guided Mentoring program for high school youth had a wonderful first year in operation and an amazing year-end celebration at Camp DREAM in mid-May. Time was spent reflecting on their experiences with DREAM and the evolution of a brand new program.
Our year has been one of challenges and growth. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun and good times. It has been wonderful to see our high school mentors step into leadership roles and grow more engaged with their communities. As a group of leaders and mentors ourselves, we are very proud of their growth. They have become more confident in their expression and leadership throughout the year.
Without question, the highlight of this year has been the high school mentors joining their elementary school mentees. They spent a significant amount of time preparing and maintained their excitement and anticipation throughout logistical challenges. They formed meaningful relationships through fun, dynamic activities that pushed both the mentors and mentees to think about and feel what meaningful relationships are like with one another and with their communities.
As our end of the year celebration approached, we were fortunate to have incredible weather that allowed us to enjoy Camp DREAM’s Spring beauty. More than two dozen present and future high school mentors, along with high school advisors, came together to further build energy and enthusiasm. We reflected on the work, accomplishments and challenges of the year, and looked forward to the second year of the program. We were joined and supported by several DREAM colleagues who introduced themselves to our mentors and broadened their DREAM network. Camp DREAM’s director, Elise Oshlag, led several challenge activities - minefield, trolley walks, human knots, blindfolded trust walks - designed to push the participants to the edges of their comfort zones and engage their communication skills. During the debrief of these activities, Elise beautifully tied these experiences into the mentors’ learning and growth from this year, as well as to how they can connect this to their work with their mentees. We also had a lovely time for reflection at Camp’s waterfront, where our Youth Service Manager, Amber Combs, continued the reflection and celebration. She created booklets for each mentor. There were prompts to guide them in thinking about their experiences, the impact these have had on them and their perspectives on their lives and their communities.
Our time at Camp was short, but super sweet, and during rides back home the story telling and memories continued, as mentors expressed how much fun they had at both the celebration and throughout the year. What a year it has been. We are looking forward to next year, to welcoming new mentors and mentees, and to continuing our growth and learning.