WESTFIELD — The Westfield Public Schools is currently hiring mentors for its student mentoring program at Westfield Technical Academy, Westfield High School and Westfield Middle School.
The program matches adults with students who are at risk, to be a positive adult figure in that student’s life. The students may need additional support in the area of academics, social-emotional, effort in school, school attendance, “the whole nine yards,” said Christopher Rogers, WPS administrator of student interventions and safety, who manages the program.
Mentors in the program are paid $30 per hour for up to 10 hours a week. Rogers said the program goes through a full hiring process as with any other employee, although it is funded entirely through Title I, based on the allocation to the three schools.
Rogers said he tries to match the strengths of the mentor to the needs of the child, in order to establish a powerful, appropriate relationship between the adult and the student. “If the relationship doesn’t go well, no mentoring will take place,” he said.
He said in the last couple of years, the mentors have increasingly collaborated with classroom teachers, administrators and counselors on the best strategy to help that particular child. When the students are at the high school level, mentors serve a strong purpose as a sort of graduation coach, making sure their students are on-time to class, and get the credits they need to graduate on time.
“Last year, we were amazed when we collected the data at the end of the year. Every senior at WHS and WTA that had been part of the mentoring program, whether for one, two or three years, graduated, and got their diploma,” Rogers said, adding these were kids that needed the additional support.
Stefan Czaporowski started the student mentoring program as principal of Westfield Technical Academy in 2014, by hiring five mentors to work with students who were struggling, growing the program to eight over time. He said he hired retired teachers, guidance counselors and police officers among his mentors.
When he became superintendent, he extended the program to Westfield Middle School and Westfield High School and the Pathways Alternative program, with a total of 18 mentors now in the student mentoring program.
“I worked with the mentors, and got to know their strengths,” Czaporowski said. He said he had a retired math teacher who worked with students struggling with math, and a retired English teacher for those struggling with reading.
Czaporowski said mentors go through an interview and mentor training. He said they can be retired teachers or members of the community that want to help students.
“While it’s not always academic, sometimes social and emotional, the goal of mentors is to help students be at school and ready to learn,” he said, adding that help with attendance, study skills and career exploration or college exploration is also valuable. “One mentor used to take kids to Holyoke Community College to take their placement exams,” he said.
Rogers said they have had a good number of applications for mentors so far, but still have some slots available. Anyone interested in talking about the available positions may reach out to Rogers at 413-572-6397 or [email protected].
In addition to the paid student mentoring program, there is a separate volunteer mentoring program through the Westfield Education to Business Alliance (WE2BA), which has not yet started for the year.
Volunteer mentors typically meet with one student for 45 minutes to an hour. Previously run by Tina Macy, this year the program will be run by the new Outreach Coordinator Matthew Garlo, who is participating in a training with MassMentoring.
“Matt is going to that training this week, and will then be a ‘train the trainer’ and reach out to principals to identify students,” Czaporowski said. He said they will be looking for volunteer mentors to be a positive role model for students, not only in academics, but in the student’s life.
The first WE2BA meeting is scheduled in person at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, at Mestek’s Reed Institute.