“Okay, let’s do our word workout!” said Jamestown High School sophomore Isayah Baker to a group of third and fourth graders at the Eastside YMCA after school program. “Toxic, to be able to kill or harm if inhaled or touched. Can you all say toxic? How do you think toxic is related to frogs – are some frogs toxic?”
Isayah was teaching a lesson on frogs during a recent Mentor on the Move Program. The program began two years ago as part of the Eastside Y’s collaboration with the Jamestown Public Schools to address needs associated with the growing Latino community. The program is funded through JPS’ Extended School Day Grant.
“We have kids of all ages in different stages of language development who are not only trying to learn school content but also trying to learn English along the way,” said John Barber, YMCA Teen Director. “We wanted older Latino youth to inspire younger Latino youth to stay encouraged to keep working hard in school. The YMCA Teen Center is always working to provide outlets for teens do something productive for the community and our high volume of Latino teens seemed well poised to help these students.”
The goal of the Mentor on the Move Program is to aid reading fluency through meaningful peer relationships. The mentoring sessions show how learning and reading are fun activities that can be enjoyed outside the classroom. The YMCA teen staff recruits students that are involved in our Teen Center at the downtown YMCA. Students that are considered must demonstrate consistency and value learning. In order to become a mentor, students complete an application that is reviewed by Mr. Barber. Teens spend one hour each week at the Eastside Y and also spend time preparing the day’s lesson.
“When I was little I had a mentor who helped me become who I am today,” said Isayah who plans to be a civil engineer. “So, I like helping out, and giving back, by being a mentor to younger students.”
For the older students being a mentor is an opportunity to have a valuable experience that counts towards volunteer hours and provides them a membership to the YMCA. For the younger students the program a lot of fun and becomes one of the highlights to the great experiences they have everyday at the Eastside YMCA.
“We have learned all about wolves, frogs and turtles,” said Ring Elementary School fourth grader Alexsandria Ramos. “It is fun to have the high school kids come and help us because they can teach us more about things that we don’t know and help us understand what we are learning. The high school kids help us learn to read better and gives us the chance to read more after school too.”
The Mentors on the Move program is one of the ways students participating in the “Ready to Work” program at the YMCA Teen Center are learning skills that will make them employable and promotable in the future. Students that become mentors are learning skills associated with after school instruction but they are also learning general job skills like responsibility, professional service, and commitment. A student that learns to become a great mentor is also learning to be a great future employee.
“I want to become a pediatrician so this is a good experience for me,” said JHS senior and mentor Nancheska Torres. “I love helping the little kids and making them see that reading can be fun.”