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Rome school district relaunches mentoring program

Posted 2/16/23

The Rome City School District has resumed operation of the Rome Mentoring Program that was established to help elementary school children gain self-esteem.

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Rome school district relaunches mentoring program


ROME — The Rome City School District has resumed operation of the Rome Mentoring Program that was established to help elementary school children gain self-esteem and enhance their social and emotional skills.

The popular local program, which was created in 2016 in partnership with the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce, operated for four years until the pandemic forced the closing of schools nationwide in 2020.

“Related issues since then, including hybrid learning and restrictions on school visitors, made it impractical for the district to restart the mentoring program until now,” district Superintendent of Schools Peter Blake explained.

Christopher Brewer, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational programs who oversees the Rome Mentoring Program, said that two elementary schools -- Denti and Gansevoort – are participating this year with a total of 19 fourth grade students and 19 mentors. The weekly mentoring sessions began in late January and will continue through the end of May.

When the Rome Mentoring Program was paused in 2020 due to COVID, all seven elementary schools in the district were participating at the time, including 70 student mentees and 70 volunteer adult mentors. According to Brewer, more schools could participate if the Rome program is renewed for the 2023-24 academic year.

“The purpose of the program is to help school children develop self-esteem, improve social skills, learn respect for others and achieve personal success,” Brewer noted.

It is not a tutoring program, he said, but rather a method that pairs each child with a mentor whose weekly interaction in a school setting has a lasting positive influence on the student. Under the direction of a faculty member at each participating school, the weekly meetings consist of group discussions, one-to-one mentoring and special projects and activities.

The 19 mentors in this year’s program previously volunteered in the Rome district prior to the COVID shutdown, and all had undergone the necessary training and security clearance protocol.

Deborah A. Grogan, chair of the Chamber’s Education Committee, cited the panel’s lead role in recruiting volunteer mentors and promoting the mentoring program through news releases, e-mailings, and informational meetings.

“I applaud local businesses, civic organizations, and the community-at-large for their continued support for the Rome Mentoring Program,” Grogan said. She praised the Eastern Air Defense Sector for being a strategic partner, noting that EADS has provided a significant number of volunteer mentors since the program’s inception.

“The collaborative effort between the Rome City School District and the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce has resulted in a very successful mentoring program that has well served the community and its school children,” she added.

Wesley Cupp, interim president of the Chamber of Commerce, praised William K. Guglielmo - who recently retired as Chamber president - for his leadership in helping the Rome Mentoring Program grow in its first four years.

“Under Bill’s direction, the Chamber helped recruit mentors for the more than 200 student mentees who have benefitted from mentoring since the program began,” he said. “Bill understood the importance of helping our children succeed, and he recognized how important it is for the community from a social, educational, and economic aspect.”

Frank P. Di Berardino, who helped create the Rome Mentoring Program and is a member of the Chamber’s Education Committee, said that school children during the coronavirus crisis were adversely affected by stay-at-home learning as well as by the physical isolation from teachers and classmates.

Di Berardino was a charter member of the New York State Mentoring Program’s Advisory Council, having served for five years helping to establish local mentoring programs in school districts and non-profit organizations throughout the state.

“It’s more important than ever that we offer school children as much social and emotional support as possible,” Di Berardino noted. “Mentoring effectively helps connect children with dedicated mentors who offer the kids advice, companionship, and the chance for a brighter future.”

“To paraphrase motivational speaker Josh Shipp, every child who has a mentor is one caring adult away from being a success story,” he concluded.


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