Mentorship program expands to Kearsarge area

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 08-18-2023 5:04 PM

NEW LONDON — Windsor County Mentors is expanding to the Kearsarge region.

The Windsor-based nonprofit organization is partnering with community groups and the Kearsarge Regional School District to start a mentoring program for students at elementary schools in New London and Bradford, N.H. They are currently recruiting volunteers to match with children during the upcoming school year.

“We’re going to start with that and see how it goes,” said Matthew Garcia, executive director of Windsor County Mentors.

The expansion is the second for the organization in as many years: Windsor County Mentors also launched a program in Claremont and Newport. While 10 mentor/mentee pairs have been established, the expansion has gone slower than planned due to a lack of volunteers, Garcia said.

That’s why Windsor County Mentors approached the Kearsarge region differently: They started by recruiting volunteers — there are around a dozen already signed up — before asking school district officials for student referrals. In the Claremont area, the organization had started with student referrals and set out to find volunteer mentors second.

“It will launch with a good number of mentor pairs,” Garcia said about the Kearsarge program. “I think there’s just a lot of retired people in the area who are eager to volunteer.”

Two groups — the Kearsarge Neighborhood Partners and Kearsarge Community Network — have been instrumental in finding volunteers.

Carol Conforti-Adams, of the Kearsarge Community Network, said that the organization was inspired to get involved, in part, after seeing data that showed the positive impact mentorship programs can have on children in a community. Children who have mentors, for example, are less likely to engage in risky behavior like drug use.

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“The whole idea with mentoring is positive role modeling and the more positive role models we can have out there, the less dysfunction we will see in people,” Conforti-Adams said. Mentors may be able to help tap into childrens’ interests and inspire them in their future career plans. “Sometimes younger kids, if they’re exposed to something at a younger age they could get hooked on things.”

Mentors can also help their mentees develop social skills and learn how to process their emotions as they ease into adulthood.

“Those don’t come all of a sudden when you turn 18,” Conforti-Adams said. “Those are things you learn as you develop.”

Instead of forming its own mentoring program, Kearsarge decided to reach out to Windsor County. Volunteers will meet with children weekly in schools.

For more information or to be a volunteer, visit wcmentors.org. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.