2020 Ambassadors of Mentoring

We are excited to announce the 2020 Vermont Ambassadors of Mentoring!

MENTOR Vermont and Comcast teamed up again this January to raise awareness of the amazing work mentors are doing in the communities across Vermont and recognize outstanding volunteer mentors and their mentees for their service. All nominees were honored at MENTOR Vermont’s Youth Mentoring Celebration in Montpelier during National Mentoring Month (January 22, 2020).

Click on each of the mentor pairs’ names below to read their stories!

1: Angelique & Darcie - Mentoring at UCS

Name of Mentor: Angelique Parks
Name of Mentee: Darcie
Mentoring Program: Mentoring at UCS
Program Type: School and Community-Based
Length of Their Match: 1.5 years
Age of Mentee: 12

About This Match: Angelique and Darcie have been a match since the beginning of June 2018 and truly epitomize all of the positive benefits that mentoring has to offer. A level of trust has been established whereas Darcie identifies Angelique as someone she can talk to about the “tough stuff” when she does not feel comfortable talking with others and has referred to Angelique as her “actual big sister.” Also a benefit of this established trust is Darcie’s willingness to now go to new places and try certain things that she had been adamant about not doing previous to this relationship. Angelique states, “I think she’s opened up more to new experiences and people as long as she feels prepared or has someone she can trust there.”

“This relationship has opened my eyes to what being a positive role model can mean,” says Angelique. “Darcie is a spitfire with incredible personality and heart. At times, she gets caught up in her fear of being hurt, judged, or letting others in and thus can come off as hard or defiant, but has blossomed in many ways throughout our time together. Ultimately, our mentor/mentee relationship resembles I think the ups and downs of who Darcie is and can become with support and encouragement. I only hope moving forward that I can continue to be that positive influence for her and look forward to mentoring her further.”

Additional Contributions to the Program:
Angelique is incredibly wonderful in terms of communication! Whether seeking support, advice, sharing concerns, recording in Civicore, or RSVPing to event announcements she is spot on!! It is my hope that she will consider speaking at orientations and/or trainings on the importance of communication with your mentoring staff.

Angelique and Darcie were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Laurie Sallisky, program coordinator for Mentoring at UCS

Did you enjoy reading Angelique and Darcie’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

2: Bonnie & Kada - King Street Center

Name of Mentor: Bonnie Ferro
Name of Mentee: Kada
Mentoring Program: King Street Center’s Junior Senior Buddies
Program Type: Community-Based
Length of Their Match: 7 years
Age of Mentee: 14

About This Match:

I am honored to nominate Bonnie Ferro and Kada as King Street Center’s 2020 Mentor and Mentee Ambassadors. As Bonnie shared: “Seven years ago I approached Gabe about becoming a King Street Mentor. At the time, Gabe cautioned that it was a one-year commitment. Once I said that wouldn’t be a problem, she enthusiastically declared, ‘That’s great because I have the perfect match for you!!!’ And so Kada and I were matched and one year turned into seven and we both agree, it would be hard to picture life without the other. Ever! What do we do together? We pick berries, we pick apples, we carve pumpkins, we get lost in corn mazes, we float down the White River. We bake cookies, we bake cupcakes…we talk about school, we talk about friendship issues, and family. I attend graduations and choral concerts, and go on school field trips. We eat cremees, we get pedis. We laugh and cry, and care about each other.”

“When Kada was six, we joked that our mentoring relationship would end when she grew taller than me, yet here she is now at 14 towering over me. And although I always assumed that as Kada approached her teen years, the appeal of hanging with a middle-aged woman would wane, just the opposite has proven true. As Kada navigates the challenges of adolescence, the importance of our visits and ‘chats’ has only grown. ‘Two peas in a pod,’ her mom calls us – and it is true. We are grateful to have each other in our lives and neither could picture life without the other.”

I have witnessed their relationship grow over the past seven years and it is a testament to the power of steady long-term relationships. As Bonnie said, navigating adolescence is complicated so it’s great that Kada has another adult, besides her wonderful loving mom Kashka to talk to. Kashka had initially thought the mentor program would provide her a few hours a week of needed reprieve. However, she goes on to say, “Today, I can say that the relationship not just with Bonnie and Kada, but with all of us, is a special and everlasting friendship. It is rooted in trust, and a commitment to be ‘a constant’ in an otherwise ever changing fabric of life. Bonnie has become a trusted friend and confidant, for all of us. We cannot express eloquently enough the magnitude of gratitude that we hold, for having been given such a gift. Perhaps when the girls are grown, I will be in a position to pay it forward, and become a mentor myself.”

Bonnie and Kada often come to the yearly apple picking event. They stroll up arm and arm, smiles and giggles, as they collect their bag for apples. Often lingering long enough to share tales of their latest adventures. Kada’s eyes widen as she enthusiastically talks about Bonnie. It does not matter if they are floating down a river or if Bonnie is attending her concerts. What is crystal clear is that being with Bonnie is what’s special. Bonnie echoes these sentiments. It is true that love, consistency, reliability, dependability, trust, and affection are the key elements of the magic potion.

Bonnie and Kada were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Gabriella Tufo Strouse, community outreach director at the King Street Center

Did you enjoy reading Bonnie and Kada’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

3: Carolyn & Lillian - Girls/Boyz First Mentoring

Name of Mentor: Carolyn Grodinsky
Name of Mentee: Lillian
Mentoring Program: Girls/Boyz First Mentoring
Program Type: Community-Based
Length of Their Match: 3.5 years
Age of Mentee: 13

About This Match: Carolyn Grodinsky has volunteered as a mentor in Girls/Boyz First Mentoring for 18 years. During this period, she has mentored 5 girls.

Carolyn has been mentoring Lillian, her 5th mentee for the past 3.5 years. They were matched not long after Lillian’s parents divorced. Lillian is an only child. Carolyn is single and has no children of her own. Both Carolyn and Lillian love animals, knitting and crafts and being outside in nature. They also both enjoy cooking and baking and doing community service projects to help others.

Lillian is a little shy and Carolyn is an extrovert and has lived in the central Vermont community for almost 30 years. Through her mentoring relationship with Carolyn, Lillian has had an extra adult to take her on nature adventures, catching frogs, finding new swimming holes to explore, someone to bake and cook with and to introduce her to elderly neighbors in need of some companionship. Carolyn has a great sense of humor and a gigantic heart and always has a dog or cat at home to snuggle with and play with or a need to run up to the local animal shelter to volunteer as a respite home provider for an elderly or needy dog.

Together, this pair has forged a solid mentoring relationship. Lillian is now a confident and busy 8th grader, involved in theater and extra curricular middle school activities and friendships and Carolyn has yet another mentee to add to her family of mentees.

Additional Contributions to the Program:
Carolyn has helped recruit and support other new mentors. She has spread her love of mentoring to her friends, colleagues and neighbors. She is very active and super enthusiastic about participating in favorite and new group activities with her mentees, be it picking up trash for Green Up Day, participating with the mentees in comedy improv classes or community service projects such as helping elderly neighbors. Carolyn is always willing to bend over backwards to promote mentoring in central Vermont.

Carolyn and Lillian were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Wendy Freundlich, coordinator of Girls/Boyz First Mentoring

Did you enjoy reading Carolyn and Lillian’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

4: Dorothy & Charlie - Grand Isle County Mentoring

Name of Mentor: Dorothy Sacca
Name of Mentee: Charlie
Mentoring Program: Grand Isle County Mentoring Program
Program Type: School-Based
Length of Their Match: 3.5 years
Age of Mentee: 9

About This Match: Dorothy and Charlie first met when Charlie was in Kindergarten. They had never met before, but the two connected quickly and started meeting once a week starting in April 2016. Eight months later Charlie moved and the two had to end their mentoring relationship but had enjoyed their brief time together.

Luckily for both Charlie and Dorothy their story continues! A year later Charlie moved back to Grand Isle and the two were able to pick up where they left off. How wonderful in a time of change that he was able to return to meeting with Mrs. Sacca consistently once again. Now Charlie is in 4th grade. I had the opportunity to join the pair before Christmas break and get to hear their story. The first thing I noticed when I walked in, is that they were both smiling. They were finishing up a competitive game of Slapjack that had them both laughing. They had already been outside to play which is something they try to do each visit. When I asked what they liked to do together, the list was long. They go sledding, roll down hills together, swing and sometimes go the gym to play football or soccer. Charlie said, “I like anything active!”.

The pair went on to share with me what makes their relationship special. “Charlie makes me feel like a kid again. There is nothing like rolling down a hill on a beautiful day to help with that!” Dorothy shared.

Charlie loves how Mrs. S will try and do anything he comes up with. “If I want to play hide and seek, she will. If I want to play tag, she will.” Charlie shared. It’s nice that she likes to do what I like to do.”

Charlie also shared a little about when the pair attended the ECHO Community Science Night for mentoring pairs last March. He said the bus ride is a lot of fun and he really likes to get soaked at the water tables upstairs. Both enjoyed making helicopters with paper cups and trying them out in the wind tunnels. Of course, Charlie remembered the pizza dinner and looks forward to that part again this year! 

Additional Contributions to the Program:
Currently Dorothy is a 5th and 6th grade teacher at Grand Isle School. Prior to this year she taught grades 7 and 8 as well. Dorothy has been involved in mentoring for many years beginning when an 8th grade student asked her to be her mentor almost nine years ago. Grand Isle County Mentoring connected them to Spectrum Youth Services so they could do community mentoring right away. That mentoring relationship continued through high school and the two remain in touch today! Following this positive match experience, Dorothy decided she wanted to mentor again in the Grand Isle County Mentoring school-based program. She has been a reliable, committed, strong veteran mentor and respected teacher in our community.

Dorothy and Charlie were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Liese Regan, director of the Grand Isle County Mentoring Program

Did you enjoy reading Dorothy and Charlie’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

5: Evan & Dylan - The Collaborative

Name of Mentor: Evan Leontis
Name of Mentee: Dylan
Mentoring Program: The Collaborative
Program Type: School & Community-Based
Length of Their Match: 4 months
Age of Mentee: 12

About This Match: Evan Leontis is doing a great job in her first year of mentoring! At first I was a bit nervous about pairing her with her mentee because their personalities are so different. Dylan is a high energy middle-schooler who admittedly struggles in school. Evan is an artistic performer whose job is to teach singing. Despite these differences, Dylan (mentee) really enjoys his mentor relationship with Evan as they were able to come to a shared understanding and really work together. They connect in a way that I never thought would happen.

Evan is consistent, kind, and compassionate. She truly listens to Dylan. Even though the first couple of meetings were difficult for both of them, they never gave up on each other. Just watching them interact has shown me that you can understand someone in many ways besides just talking. And Evan is doing an amazing job! Dylan really enjoys his meetings with Evan since it gives him a chance to be expressive and interact in ways that others may not appreciate. Evan also works closely with Dylan’s mom to ensure that the relationship remains strong and to meet the family where they are. 

Additional Contributions to the Program:
Evan has been consistently willing to go above and beyond with Dylan this year. As she settles in, I am looking forward to her new ideas and actions that she can bring to the table. She is helping with our Family Skate night this week and love to volunteer for events at The Collaborative. Initially, Evan intended to mentor only for half a year due to her work schedule but after she visited The Collaborative she wanted to mentor Dylan for the entire year. This mentor-mentee match shows us how their powerful connection impacts them both. Evan has supported Dylan so much and this experience has helped Evan to connect with kids who may at times be difficult to understand.

Evan and Dylan were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Devon Collins, AmeriCorps member at the Collaborative

Did you enjoy reading Evan and Dylan’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

6: Laura & Kadence - Windsor County Mentors

Name of Mentor: Laura Page
Name of Mentee: Kadence
Mentoring Program: Windsor County Mentors
Program Type: School & Community-Based
Length of Their Match: 4 years
Age of Mentee: 14

About This Match: This has been a very successful mentor/mentee pairing. Mentee Kadence started out as a very shy, immature young girl and, over the past four years, has blossomed into an outgoing, secure young woman. According to mentor Laura Page, Kadence has come to see her as a friend as well as a mentor and as someone she can trust to talk about issues without judgment.

Kadence recently participated in a Community Asset Mapping project (for which she was paid) and presented the results in front of a group of local community leaders. Laura Page has always been a big supporter of mentoring, but even she is amazed at the growth shown by Kadence.

Additional Contributions to the Program:
Laura Page has joined the board of WCM and is a devoted supporter of the program, including financially.

Laura and Kadence were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Matthew Garcia, executive director of Windsor County Mentors

Did you enjoy reading Laura and Kadence’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

7: Lisa & Ohana - Milton Mentors

Name of Mentor: Lisa Rees
Name of Mentee: Ohana
Mentoring Program: Milton Mentors!
Program Type: Community-Based
Length of Their Match: 2 Years
Age of Mentee: 10

About This Match: Lisa was looking for a way to get more involved with the Milton Community and came across the Milton Community Youth Coalition’s appeal for mentors. Having been a mentor and Girl Scout leader in the past, it felt like a perfect way to have a local impact.

“I met Ohana almost two years ago and realize how becoming a mentor has profoundly changed my life,” says Lisa. “Being with Ohana makes me feel young at heart, has made me a better person, and has brought me joy and love I never imagined possible. I know we will be in each other’s lives forever and that brings me great happiness.” As for Ohana, she has gained a trusting adult friend who rivals her in positivity, motivation and enthusiasm for learning and exploring new opportunities in her community and beyond.

Additional Contributions to the Program:
Lisa and Ohana are regulars at Milton Mentors events. They bring lots of positive energy to the program and make the most of the time they spend together. In addition to cooking, gardening and enjoying one another’s company, they spent last year working towards a series of goals that included going to museums, doing STEM projects together and collecting winter wear for Vermonters in need. This year they decided to participate in a local Girl Scout Troop.

In addition to being a mentor, Lisa has served on the Board of Directors for the Vermont Federal Credit Union. Employees and board members of the Vermont Federal Credit Union, are encouraged to volunteer in their communities. Several years ago, the Credit Union established the VBucks (Volunteer Bucks) program which rewards each hour spent volunteering with a generous donation to the benefitting non-profit. Under this program Lisa has raised over $1,500 for the Milton Community Youth Coalition since she has become a mentor!

Lisa and Ohana were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Amy Spector, coordinator of the Milton Mentors program

Did you enjoy reading Lisa and Ohana’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

8: Nathaniel & Tanner - Middlebury College Community Friends

Name of Mentor: Nathaniel Klein
Name of Mentee: Tanner
Mentoring Program: Middlebury College Community Friends
Program Type: School & Community-Based
Length of Their Match: 2 years
Age of Mentee: 10

About This Match: Nathaniel Klein and Tanner have been matched through Community Friends for the past two years and bring joy and energy wherever they travel on campus. Whether they are playing sports, building elaborate forts in the forest, going on scavenger hunts, or relaxing and eating a meal together in the dining hall, the two can always be seen laughing and truly enjoying their time spent together.

Nathaniel is the captain of the rugby team and is a top shot-put thrower on the varsity track and field team. Both of these sports require extreme athleticism and have the potential to perpetuate a culture of toxic masculinity for young men, predicated on physical strength. While Nathaniel is strong without a doubt, his true strength lies in his ability to challenge existing narratives of masculinity and support other young men who may be grappling with a sense of self. By engaging Tanner in athletic activities, arts and crafts, costumes, scavenger hunts, and much more, Nathaniel has helped Tanner realize that being a man can be so much more than how you look or what activities you enjoy. In turn, Nathaniel has grown in how he can truly be present and enjoy time with another person, and has learned from Tanner how make the most of even the toughest situation.

In his own words about why he loves youth mentoring, Nathaniel shares, “In college, most of the work I do feels somewhat intangible because homework assignments have little meaning outside of school. Mentoring has given me a chance to enjoy myself while creating positive change in my community friends life; if you can change one life, you change the world.” On top of Nathaniel’s extraordinary qualities as a role model, he is an amazing listener who is present as others confide in him. When you tell Nathaniel something, you can be sure he is truly listening and is doing so because he cares about the well-being of all people in his life. Nathaniel’s relationship with Tanner is a reflection of how he treats and supports other people each and every day, and his ability to question what it means to be a man has had an enormous impact on the people who know him.

Though young men can sometimes have trouble expressing their emotions, Nathaniel and Tanner had built a relationship allowed them to be open with one another and express gratitude for their time together. By showing young people the importance of expressing your emotions and talking about the challenges we all face in our day-to-day lives, Nathaniel has truly made Addison County a more special place and has helped people in our town feel like they truly belong, no matter who they are.

In addition, Nathaniel volunteers each week at the Charter House, a shelter for homeless individuals and families in Addison County, cooking and serving meals to residents on Sunday afternoons.

Additional Contributions to the Program:
Nathaniel has been a dedicated member of the Community Friends organization for the past three years. Not only does he consistently impact Tanner’s life through their one on one mentorship, but Nathaniel is a staple of joy, positivity, inspiration and creativity in the greater Community Friends program. He and Tanner are always the first to show up to program-wide events and kick start the fun. Whether the two of them are strutting onto the dance floor for an epic dance battle, rallying the group for a big game of kickball, or working on a more intentional art project just the two of them, Nathaniel has a certain way of inviting a deeper connection with Tanner. Nathaniel epitomizes the Community Friends program, he is a dedicated and devoted student-athlete at Middlebury that always finds a way to connect with the people and places around him. He loves to explore the Middlebury community and continue to learn about new and exciting opportunities for engagement outside of campus. In addition to his role as a mentor, Nathaniel has been a source of inspiration and guidance for other mentors, his thoughtful and intentional insight has had a lasting effect on our new mentors.

Nathaniel and Tanner were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Kira Waldman, student coordinator of Community Friends

Did you enjoy reading Nathaniel and Tanner’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

9: Terri & Tori - Twinfield Together Mentoring

Name of Mentor: Terri Weinstein
Name of Mentee: Victoria (Tori)
Mentoring Program: Twinfield Together Mentoring Program
Program Type: School and Community-Based
Length of Their Match: 2 years, 10 months
Age of Mentee: 14

About This Match: Terri and Tori first got to know each other when Tori was in 5th grade, and had recently moved to Twinfield. In the past three years they have shared a lot of craft and cooking adventures together, and have been supportive friends to each other in many situations. 

Additional Contributions to the Program:
Terri is an ambassador to mentoring in our community because she has been part of the program since it first began in 2009. She is a community member who works tirelessly to support all youth in our community through many volunteer efforts, and she is always doing whatever needs to get done to help kids in our community feel cared for. She is not only a formal mentor for Twinfield Together Mentoring Program, she informally supports youth by organizing a dental van to come to school, creating a cooking class for families on the weekends, and inspiring others (including her own two children) to become mentors themselves. Terri is a great friend to Tori and an inspiration to anyone that is lucky enough to know her.

Terri and Tori were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Pam Quinn, director of the Twinfield Together Mentoring Program

Did you enjoy reading Terri and Tori’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

10: Zandra & Valkyrja - Monkton Mentors

Name of Mentor: Zandra Cousino
Name of Mentee: Valkyrja
Mentoring Program: Monkton Mentors
Program Type: School and Community-Based
Length of Their Match: 5 years
Age of Mentee: 12

About This Match: Zandra became one of the first Monkton Mentors when the program started. As a newly retired educator, she welcomed the opportunity to be matched with a student one on one and meet weekly with them at school. Her first match was a very close connection and was ended after just one year when the mentee unexpectedly moved away. Zandra was very sad to lose this relationship and she went above and beyond to make sure to properly provide closure by writing a letter to the student in their new school.

Zandra was happy to step up again to the opportunity to be matched again. And she was then matched with Valkyrja. Zandra has been so thoughtful about Valkyrja’s needs and has responded so beautifully to those needs through every developmental year. Valkyrja, now in 6th grade, has steadily grown in her ability to form friendships with students and adults, share her artistic talents with others and has been enthusiastic and committed to her mentor! Zandra has also been a strong presence on our Advisory Board, recruiting mentors for the program and supporting our fundraising efforts. She truly “gets” how important it is to be present and “take a child where they are at.” And an unexpected joy for this mentor coordinator, Carolyn Tatlock, has been in gaining a friend that I also look forward to seeing every week! Thank you Zandra!  

Additional Contributions to the Program:
Zandra and Valkyrja have been consistent in attending Monkton Mentor events, welcoming other matches to spend time with them doing activities and have been featured in our brochure.

Zandra and Valkyrja were nominated as Ambassadors for Mentoring by Carolyn Tatlock, coordinator of Monkton Mentors

Did you enjoy reading Zandra and Valkyrja’s story? Click the High Five button below to show your support!

11: Enter the Raffle!