Sunday, May 29, 2016

Why we need mentors

"I could not have made it to where I am without  your help. You have encouraged me in ways you cannot imagine by supporting, believing and giving me a chance to follow my dreams. You opened my eyes to what I could be, what I could do, in a way that I've never thought possible. You made me want to see the world and beyond, and because of this, I cannot wait to move on to the next stage of my life... Thank you for making me do my best. Thank you for being my mentors."

That was one of our seniors, Kasey, expressing her gratitude to her mentors, Ms. Rudge and Ms. Kegler, at our annual Mentor Appreciation Breakfast.

I had opened the ceremonies with a similar sentiment, telling our mentors that they really are the highlight of our whole program at the Depot. I told them about my son's experience with his mentor at college, and how grateful I was last week, listening to him talk about his time with Luke. I told them it was the same with our students, that though teachers are important, the mentor's relationship with our kids is special because they have chosen to invest in them, and I don't think we can overestimate the power of that interest and care.

It makes me think of the mentors in my life. Lou DeLoreto, principal of E. O. Smith High School, has given me so many hours of his time over the past few years, during my administrator preparation program and now as I direct the Depot Campus. I lean on him heavily, and his honest advice and guidance have shaped and continue to shape me as a leader. Dominique Fox, Principal of Tolland High, played a similar role in my life, and I am grateful for all the time she gave me during the UCAPP program.

And then there's Byron Martin, who runs Logee's greenhouses. On top of managing these magical tropical rainforests hidden in the heart of Danielson, Byron is a brilliant beekeeper. I was lucky enough a few years ago to connect with him, and he offered to help me get started in the craft. His guidance has been invaluable as I've "bumbled" my way through my first three years of beekeeping.

And Peter Serafin, my shop instructor at Ellis Tech, impacted me in ways he will never know. I'll never forget the way he'd tap his stout finger on his desk when we got to chatting over our drafting tables, "Time is money," he'd ring out, "Time is money."

And there are others: Julia Sherman, David Pettry, Harvey Luce. I can't thank them all enough.

Humans are not just social animals, we are hyper-social. We absolutely need each other. Some say we're not even human without each other. The mentor-mentee relationship is just one part of that, but it's a key part, and one that is all too often lost in our modern world.

The genuine gratitude many of our students showed to their mentors on Friday testified to this. They need it. We all need it.

Let's get back to it.

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