Just before the winter break, a celebration was held at Gladstone Elementary School for a special group of adults and children.
Principal Susan Buonanno and Assistant Principal Keith Croft brought together the students who are part of the school’s mentor program along with the adults who mentor them for a craft and a snack before sending them off for the break week.
Buonanno herself mentors a student at the school, as does Ray Votto, the Chief Operating Officer for Cranston Public Schools, and both took part in the celebration.
Joining them for the special event was Celeste Comeau-Mullane, the program coordinator for Mentor Rhode Island (mentorri.org) who coordinates the mentor programs that take place in the Cranston Public Schools. The group gathered to celebrate outside of their usual weekly meetings, but spoke fondly of the times they’ve spent together so far this school year.
Shane Brown, one student participant, looked forward to the extra-special event and to seeing his mentor, Frank Ritz, who usually comes on Tuesday mornings. Ritz takes part in the mentor program through his employer, AAA. Together, Brown and Ritz play skill-based games, talk about the events of the week, and, in turn, build a relationship.
“It’s a great time, a special time,” Brown said.
“This is my second year with Shane,” Ritz said. “It’s been a great experience. We have learned a lot about each other and we have built a bond. Sometimes we play chess, sometimes I bring a couple of games and the principal often has educational games for math and reading available.”
Buonanno has worked hard to expand the mentor program at her school, given the fact that the population has many students in need of consistent and positive adult relationships. There are several CPS staff members involved and it remains a goal of hers to continue to expand it even further and to continue to involve community partners in the program, as there are so many more students in need.
“I have a teacher from Orchard Farms who comes in before work and a teacher assistant who comes during her lunch to work with a child,” she said. “I have taken guests from the community on tours of the school during the day so that they could truly see the value of their time, so that they could fall in love with the school.”
Buonanno has seen her program grow and has been pleased to hear that several of the mentoring relationships started during students’ elementary years at Gladstone have continued on as the students have moved on to middle school at Hugh B. Bain.
“I feel like I look forward to it even more than the kids do,” said Josefina Jimenez, a teacher assistant who participates in the Gladstone program.
“He [Votto] always brings something special for me to do,” said Najon Lassiter about his time with Votto.
Along with running some of the special events for the CPS mentoring programs, Comeau-Mullane also trains all mentors, oversees the matches and helps to recruit members of the local community to the mentoring programs.
Those interested in becoming a mentor for a student in need at Gladstone Elementary School can contact the school at 270-8080 or Comeau-Mullane at Mentor RI at 732-7700.