What is PLAY Mentoring?
By Jackson Markow
Every Wednesday, roughly 36 students leave home bright and early to head out to either Main Street Middle School or Union Elementary school, well before school starts here at MHS. At those schools, they find and spend time with a younger companion that has been assigned to them, and after many Wednesdays and many hours together, these students form a lasting relationship that crosses through an great age difference; something which is unique and powerful.
These students are supported by a program which you have probably heard of, called Peers Leading and Advising Youth, or PLAY Mentoring for short. As the name suggests, the high school students are formally known as the mentors and the middle or grade school students the mentees. However, in practice, each pair of students are really just companions when you get to see their relationship taking place.
“It’s really about spending quality time together, being a really great role model for students,” says Sarah Loveless, advisor and coordinator for PLAY Mentoring here at MHS.
The program offers great value to both the mentor and the mentee, says Loveless. “The mentor benefits by really fulfilling a purpose in a child’s life, it gives them a chance to interact with a different generation, and they learn about themselves through the experience.” The mentee also gains much from this mutually beneficial experience, by gaining an older friend and ally. “Some of these students may really need a positive role model in their lives, and [PLAY Mentoring] really gives them that.”
But you might be wondering, how does the program actually function? On Wednesdays at 7:40 or 7:55 (at MSMS and UES, respectively), a high school student will walk to either school and meet with their assigned mentee. The two students will then do activities of their choice in the unstructured time, such as playing games, basketball, working on homework, playing cards, or whatever the common interests of the students happen to be. Often a mentor and mentee will be paired together for several years, allowing complex, dynamic, and strong relationships to build.
And PLAY Mentoring also has great value to the Montpelier Public Schools community that often extends beyond the value to the individual students. “Any time there are connections made between people, it strengthens the community,” says Loveless. “Any time a mentor goes to Shaw’s and sees a mentee, and there are smiles and words exchanged, that is what community is about.” The program additionally forms relationships between high school students and middle school students who will soon attend MHS, making their transition much smoother.
In terms of those who have been a part of the program in the past, she says, “I know for a fact that when people leave, they feel really good about the time that they have spent with their mentees.” To any students, whether in elementary, middle, or high school, considering taking part in PLAY mentoring, Loveless says, “I would encourage you to do it, because it is a way to make a difference in someone else’s life, and also explore your own capabilities and give back to your community.”