For MVHS junior Kaely Roa, meeting with her mentor to go out to a new restaurant, make a holiday related craft, have a meaningful discussion or simply hear an uplifting life quote is the part of her week that she looks forward to.
Roa is one of the many students involved with Mentor Tutor Connection, a non-profit organization that offers both mentoring and tutoring programs to elementary, middle, and high school students in Mountain View and Los Altos. The program is celebrating 20 years of service.
Adult volunteers are paired with MVHS students to serve as someone to support them through obstacles in both school life and home life. Many students in the program are new to the country or the first in their family to attend college.
“A lot of what the mentor focuses on is being there for the mentee,” said Elizabeth Maciag, Mentor Program Manager for MVHS. “There isn’t a list of criteria to accomplish as a mentor; the goal is to build a relationship and have fun.”
In the mentor program, the mentor and mentee are required to meet at least once a month and will usually spend this time after school.
“During the busy school week it’s so helpful to just get away for just an hour and talk to someone who is really just there to support me,” Roa said.
Jim Meikrantz, a previous teacher and mentor of three years, meets with his mentee to discuss schoolwork as well as personal wellness.
“My role as a mentor is flexible,” Meikrantz said. “We discuss whatever the student needs help with. One of my mentees who was new to the country needed help with his Civics class and we both began to carry around copies of the U.S. constitution to help with schoolwork and to also make sure he knew his rights.”
Most students find out about the program from their teachers, school newsletters or presentations given to SDAIE and AVID classes.
“Students come to the mentoring program because they want a mentor,” Maciag said. “In fact, we have a waiting list of students who would love to have a mentor, but there aren’t enough to go around…One of the things we are working on is continuously recruiting more adult volunteers to expand.”
While the pair is asked to commit to only a year, the relationships between the mentee and mentor often continue past high school. Some mentors even attend their mentees’ college graduations and weddings.
“My first mentee graduated last year. We stay in touch and have almost a familial relationship,” Meikrantz said.
For Meikrantz, his role as a mentor has allowed him to give back to the community and stay in contact with a younger generation.
“Personally, I gain a sense of connectedness. It allows me to be helpful and be someone who adds to the community and doesn’t just take,” Meikrantz said. “With my mentee,
I’ll get exposed to the younger generation that I might not get to work with any other way and it’s a great joy.”
Maciag echoes this viewpoint. She pairs the MVHS mentees and mentors together based on personal interest in the hopes of creating a strong relationship.
“It’s so touching to me to see relationships develop…or to hear feedback from teachers about better social skills and classroom participation and that they have grown from a positive example of a mentor,” Maciag said.