MILTON — Having a shoulder to lean on and a friendly face to talk to are perhaps more important than ever. Milton Mentors, a program of the Milton Community Youth Coalition, is committed to being that service for Milton's youth.
“We are feeling really good about how the program is weathering this challenging time,” Mentoring Coordinator Amy Spector said.
Earlier this week, Milton Mentors received an annual grant that is instrumental in keeping it upright.
The grant, worth $7,500 this year, was given by the State of Vermont in partnership with the A.D. Henderson Foundation, MENTOR Vermont and the Vermont Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
Milton Mentors has applied for and received a MENTOR grant every year since the program began in 2011.
Spector said this year the grant will go towards paying staff salaries and designing virtual workshops. It might also help fund the new activity kits she is putting together.
Through the Milton Mentors program, participating children in grades 3-8 are matched with adult volunteers. The pairs meet a few times a month to participate in workshops, engage in activities and have conversation. Pairs can stay matched through high school graduation.
“We are so impressed with how dedicated our matches are to staying connected with one another and how creative they are at coming up with activities to do with one another remotely,” Spector said.
Typically, pairs meet in-person, but due to the pandemic, meetings have become remote. Spector said some mentors and mentees are using Zoom or FaceTime to play cards, do crafts or learn to play instruments together.
Milton Mentors has also been holding monthly Zoom activities for program participants, like remote pumpkin carving or paper snowflake making. Many pairs are also participating in virtual art workshops with the Milton Artists’ Guild.
Currently, 18 adult/youth mentoring pairs are participating in the program, though Spector said there is more demand than supply. Several children are on a waitlist, until more adult volunteers are found.
“It’s very typical to have youth on the waitlist waiting for mentors,” she said. “We know, this is a challenging time for all of us. We understand that, but we have some really exciting and safe, effective ways to support youth.”
In 2021, Spector, who sits on MENTOR Vermont’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, is looking forward to increasing Milton’s work around the subject.
“This has been a really exciting push in the mentoring field,” she said.
Spector recently joined a discussion group through the Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative to increase her own knowledge and awareness. She hopes to encourage more mentoring pairs to participate as well.
In addition, Spector is excited about the recent launch of Milton Mentors' new e-mentoring program which uses the CricketTogether E-Mentoring Portal.
Through the portal, youth and adults will be able to explore articles and stories and share their thoughts about what they are learning through writing letters to one another.
“This program is a pen pal like exchange that is conducted across an online platform,” Spector said. “The platform has been around for awhile but it is brand new to us, and we are really excited to make it available to the Milton community.”