Vote for the Mentor of the Year

MENTOR Vermont and Comcast are teaming up again this January to recognize an outstanding volunteer as the Vermont Mentor of the Year. The winner will be recognized at MENTOR Vermont’s Youth Mentoring Celebration in Montpelier during National Mentoring Month (January 23, 2019).

This year’s nominees are listed below. Click on the mentor’s name to read the full nomination.

Public voting for the Vermont Mentor of the Year Award is now closed. Thank you for participating in the process! The top three vote getters from the public portion of the process are now being considered by an outside committee. The final award winner will be honored at MENTOR Vermont’s 2019 Youth Mentoring Celebration at the Statehouse on Wednesday, January 23.

1: Richard Baker - Grand Isle County Mentoring Program

Name of Mentor: Richard Baker
Mentoring Program: Grand Isle County Mentoring Program
Program Type: School-Based
Length of Time With Program: 2 years
Length of Current Match: 5 months
Age of Mentee: 10

Nomination: Rick Baker has been a mentor with the Grand Isle County Mentoring Program for almost two years. He was first matched with a student for a year and a half who moved at the end of the school year. Rick began with his current mentee, Arnold, in September of this year.

What is amazing is what they have done in that short amount of time together. Since September Arnold and Rick have built two bookshelves for the school. They have also built and painted a birdhouse. They made a mailbox for the school and they are building a corkboard to surprise the school principal. Their next project is to build a recycling/garbage bin for the school cafeteria.

The principal at Rick’s school described him as dedicated to helping children. He is kind, creative and dedicated to being a mentor for his student. Rick is very happy being a mentor and really allows his mentee to shine. He gives gentle guidance and helps the mentee think for himself. This helps build the child’s self-esteem.

Arnold wasn’t sure he wanted a mentor, but when he found out that Mr. Baker was going to be his mentor, he changed his mind. Rick Baker, who works at the Alburgh School, has made such a difference in Arnold’s life in such a short period of time. It is hard to imagine the things they are going to accomplish together.

2: John Bossange - King Street Center

Name of Mentor: John Bossange
Mentoring Program: King Street Center’s Junior Senior Buddies
Program Type: Community-Based
Length of Time With Program: 7.5 years
Length of Current Match: 7.5 years
Age of Mentee: 17

Nomination: Burlington High School Senior, Anthony, describes his mentor, John Bossange as “a wonderful man. A father-figure.”

Thursday afternoons, John meets Anthony in the lobby at the high school. “I chat with the principal and guidance counselors. Anthony always finds me there, lingers, and then we’re ready to go. He shows that he’s proud to know me.”

John and Anthony were matched as a pair by King Street Center’s “Buddy Program” when Anthony was in 5th grade. “My wife passed away, and about six months later, I was looking to fill a void. I needed to stay busy. He helped me build a routine. Every Thursday. It just stayed that way. Never felt stale. It’s been one long special story.” John also serves on the King Street Center Board of Directors and was instrumental in the day-to-day oversight of King Street Center’s building project in 2014.

John and Anthony laid the groundwork of their relationship through their Thursday afternoons together. “We would play frisbee at North Beach when he was young. We’d go on bike rides. We still play cards. Consistent playful moments in the past opened the door to serious conversations as a young adult. We talk. I love our incredible discussions about politics, religion, social pressures, and college. We couldn’t do that without playful, mindless time behind us.” Anthony says, “As I got older, John helped me more in terms of being the best person I can be and setting me up for adulthood. He has taught me the most about the world. Right now, I don’t think I would even be thinking of college if it wasn’t for John.”

Honesty and openness has been a critical part of Anthony and John’s relationship. “Anthony will ask me, ‘what should I do in this situation?’ Or ‘how did you handle this when you were my age?’ I’ll tell him about when I screwed up and how I paid the price for it. He knows it took me five years to get through high school. Kids know if you’re real or faking it. They’ll test you and figure you out.” Anthony’s mother, Shana, says, “Anthony is often more open with John than me. He listens to and respects John. Anthony has gotten consistency, stability, and has a safe person to open up to. John is more than a mentor – he is a friend, confidant…more of a family member.”

“In Anthony’s family, he’s got no footsteps in front of him when it comes to going to college. He would be the first. He is a bright, intuitive kid,” says John.  “After all these years, my greatest wish is that Anthony has a bank of conversations he can draw on. I’ll always be available to him and he knows that. But, I hope he’ll go off and start his own education, and build his own relationships and family. Because I know, we won’t always have our Thursdays.”

3: Ben Hamblett - The Collaborative

Name of Mentor: Ben Hamblett
Mentoring Program: The Collaborative
Program Type: School-Based
Length of Time With Program: 3 months
Length of Current Match: 3 months
Age of Mentee: 7

Nomination: While this mentor and mentee match is very new, they have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. Ben’s mentee did not want to attend our Mentor Kickoff but Ben convinced him to come and their relationship has grown immensely since that first day.  Andrew is very excited when it’s “Ben Day” in our after school program. During their first few meetings, Ben learned about Andrew’s love of board games. Even though most seven year olds would prefer to win, Andrew understands that he doesn’t have to win every game, and if they play again he has another chance of beating Ben.

Ben and his mentee played monopoly for at least three of their mentoring sessions and thus he created “Andrewopoly.” Ben, being a creative person, while he was out of power for a week, thought that his mentee would love to have his very own board game, about himself. During one of their most recent meetings, they created all of the properties, railroads and cards to reflect things that Andrew enjoys doing. Ben then put all of Andrew’s edits onto the Andrewopoly board.  During the first Ben Day of the 2019 year, this mentor pair will play Andrew’s very own board game.

I think that Ben should be the Vermont Mentor of the Year because not every mentor would make the connection that a mentee who enjoys playing board games would LOVE to have a board game all about himself. Ben did just that, and Andrew had a ton of fun making up the spaces and the board.  He can’t wait to take on his mentor in Andrewopoly in January!

4: Susan Klaiber - Starksboro Mentoring Program & Mt. Abe Mentors

Name of Mentor: Susan Klaiber
Mentoring Program: Starksboro Mentoring Program and Mount Abe Mentors
Program Type: School and Community-Based
Length of Time With Program: 10 years
Length of Current Matches: 10 and 2 years
Age of Mentees: 16 and 7

Nomination: Susan is the quintessential mentor. She is creative, fun, interesting, kind, resourceful, encouraging and dedicated to her mentees.

She was matched with Izzy 10 years ago when Izzy was in first grade. Their relationship immediately blossomed with Susan’s love and encouragement. Together they have enjoyed crafts, cooking, games, group events and excursions. Susan helped Izzy pursue an interest she had learned in science class and together they made lip balms. Susan helped Izzy with resources for creating the product, and adding scents. She also assisted her with labels, containers, finally in setting a price based on the amount it cost them to make the balms. 

Izzy is now an involved 16-year-old student and cross country and track runner in the 10th grade. Recently, when visiting Izzy’s house, she discovered a bulletin board in her room that was covered with postcards Susan had sent to her during her travels and a big portrait of Susan.

Susan is now doing “double time” and mentoring two Isabellas! Her new second grader says of Susan: “we are both nice, we are both good at math and we both wear glasses. This is why we were matched. We have so much in common!” Susan has adapted to her new Isabella’s interest in playing Connect 4, and doing math problems. In addition to Susan’s dedication to the two Isabellas, she also spends time serving on the Starksboro Mentoring Advisory Board and helping with the finances and budgeting for the program.

5: Tom Lehner - Girls/Boyz First Mentoring

Name of Mentor: Tom Lehner
Mentoring Program: Girls/Boyz First Mentoring
Program Type: Community-Based
Length of Time With Program: 8 years
Length of Current Match: 8 years
Age of Mentee: 18

Nomination: Tom Lehner has mentored Ryan Wilder since 2011, when Ryan was a 5th grade student at Rumney Elementary School in Middlesex, Vermont. Ryan is now finishing up at Choice Academy in Barre.  

Ryan has had many challenges in his life over the past eight years. Tom has been an unwavering and positive presence throughout their time together, including visiting Ryan as he has moved back and forth between other towns and different living situations. Tom even traveled two plus hours each way and visited Ryan when he was living in southern Vermont several years ago.

Ryan and Tom keep busy doing active, outdoor activities. Ryan says that he’s learned from Tom to keep busy and how to manage his anger issues. “There’s too much else to do besides being angry!” says Ryan.  Some of the highlights of their time together have been skiing at Morse Farm, hiking, canoeing, playing basketball, and bowling (when the weather is bad). 

Ryan feels that Tom is a good mentor because he’s funny, active, likes to do a lot of outdoor activities and helps him get to where he needs to go.  They have even learned fly fishing together. 

Tom loves Ryan’s enthusiasm for learning and thanks Ryan for making him more aware of the latest about teen culture. Tom’s advice for potential mentors is to “jump in and do it.  It’s so much fun to watch the learning.” Ryan likes that he is now the leader when he and Tom hike together and that Tom has to work hard to catch up. “I used to lose at many of the activities that Tom and I do together… but I’m getting better. I always beat him at basketball.”

6: Donna Petterssen - Twinfield Together Mentoring

Name of Mentor: Donna Petterssen
Mentoring Program:  Twinfield Together Mentoring Program
Program Type: Community and School-Based
Length of Time With Program: 4 years
Length of Current Match: 4 years
Age of Mentee: 10

Nomination: Donna has been an amazing friend to her mentee Adam for four years. Adam and Donna’s friendship started when Adam was in second grade, and a new student at Twinfield School. Adam was an energetic boy, and Donna was the perfect match for his energy. Having a special friend come in once a week was a fun way for Adam to get used to his new school and community. Through Everybody Wins! at Twinfield, Donna would come into school weekly and read books, bring creatures from her garden to examine, play a board game, or build paper airplanes.

As their friendship grew, so did their ideas of what to do together. Donna and Adam both love being outside and making things, so they decided to join our community-based program and expand their activity options. They now meet in both our Everybody Wins! and community-based programs (Donna wasn’t quite ready to give up her connection of coming into the school). Now you can find Donna and Adam reading books and coming up with a building project in the school library one week and then they are actively working on that project at Donna’s house the following week. Adam and Donna’s friendship is a reminder of the importance of intergenerational friendships for the mentor, mentee, and our whole community. Donna is caring, consistent and she has a great sense of humor. As Adam says, “Donna is really fun and creative!”

7: Kasia Mira Sosnow - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bennington County

Name of Mentor: Kasia Mira Sosnow
Mentoring Program: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bennington County
Program Type: Community-Based
Length of Time With Program: 2+ years
Length of Current Match: 2+ years
Age of Mentee: 12

Nomination: Kasia has now been a mentor in United Counseling Service’s Northshire Big Brothers Big Sisters Northshire program for more than two years. She has developed a loving, trusting, and nurturing relationship with her mentee, Sophie, who will be the first to tell you what a difference Kasia has made in her life.

Kasia is vibrant, compassionate, intelligent, and loving and it is my belief that anyone who knows her would wholeheartedly agree. This match meets on a regular basis, as Kasia understands the importance of consistency, engaging in such activities as interacting with animals, swimming, playing games, and listening to music. She attends all special events and trainings, documents immediately following a match meeting in the Vermont Mentoring Database, and is the first to volunteer for anything and everything!

Aside from being a mentor, Kasia also serves as a member of our Advisory Council and presents a database training to new mentors. She is a most valuable reference when I am attempting to find resources for new trainings to present, and ALWAYS invites and transports other mentees to join her and Sophie when their mentors cannot attend a special event.

Kasia also provides a positive impact in our educational community as a special educator at our local elementary and middle school. Any student that you speak to from there has nothing but positive remarks in regard to their encounters with her. Kasia’s role at the school also enables her to identify the children in most need of a mentor.

I cannot express enough how grateful and fortunate we are in the Northshire to have Kasia, not only as a mentor to Sophie, but as a dedicated member to our program and community as a whole.

8: Kira Waldman - Middlebury College Community Friends

Name of Mentor: Kira Waldman
Mentoring Program: Middlebury College Community Friends
Program Type: Community-Based
Length of Time With Program: 2 years
Length of Current Match: 2 years
Age of Mentee: 8

Nomination: Kira brings passion and skills in supporting her mentee, Maggie, and the Community Friends mentoring program, at large. Kira is the lead student coordinator of the Community Friends program, run through the Middlebury College Center for Community Engagement, and she led the growth of the program from 70 to 130 mentoring pairs this fall. She accomplished this through strong networking, outreach, training, and matching efforts, and by fostering a truly collaborative team of fellow student leaders. She engaged with logistical and relational challenges to support these changes, bringing necessary patience and dedication to the process.

This hard work was fueled by Kira’s deep care for children and the joy she finds in helping establish more quality mentoring relationships. While playing a significant role in supporting the program, in addition to her roles as a varsity basketball player and full-time student, Kira has continued to meet and connect with her mentee, Maggie. Kira brings creativity and thoughtfulness to each of her weekly meetings with Maggie, and also provides a newsletter full of weekly ideas for the other 129 mentoring pairs of fun things to do in the area. Kira communicates with Maggie with respect for Maggie’s ideas and appreciation for Maggie’s unique interests. Kira’s embrace of playfulness leads to ease in their connection.

Maggie and Kira also appreciate that they’re continuing a tradition–Maggie’s mom had been a mentee in Community Friends program during her youth. Kira helped facilitate a new mentoring match for Maggie’s brother this fall, too! Thank you, Kira.

9: CLICK HERE TO VOTE!

Voting for the Vermont Mentor of the Year Award is now closed. Thank you for participating in the process!

The top three vote getters from the public portion of the process are now being considered by an outside committee. The final award winner will be honored at MENTOR Vermont’s 2019 Youth Mentoring Celebration at the Statehouse on Wednesday, January 23.