Matilda Raffa Cuomo & Louisa Efua Essandoh
the three months in which students’ brains inexplicably turn to
mush, is the bane of every educator’s professional life. The learning
experience of the past school year seems to evaporate in a puff
of ferris wheel rides, outings to the pool, and too much TV. But
summer doesn’t have to be that way, and it is our job as mentors—and
simply as caring and concerned adults—to help our youth to make
the most of the summer and to explore the world. The classroom
learning is over; let the fun begin!
Mentoring USA will kick off the summer with our Second Annual
Mentor-Mentee Picnic, held in Central Park in June. It is a well-kept
secret that groups and organizations such as ours can reserve
space in the city parks for a mere $25 application fee! Many of
the youth in our programs, especially kids from the outer boroughs,
have never experienced the magic of Central Park. We bring mentors
and mentees together from our 60 program, offering sports, arts
and crafts activities for youngsters. Everyone enjoys a picnic
lunch. It’s a great way to wrap up the year and provide some closure
for mentor pairs that won’t be meeting over the summer—as well
as providing a forum for planning and discussion for those pairs
that will. Many mentors choose to work with other mentors and
youth from their site to design group mentoring activities over
the summer. This can be a fun complement to the exclusively one-on-one
mentoring that happens during the school year.
Mentoring USA’s volunteers are always amazed to discover how many
low-cost (or free!) activities this city has to offer. We have
compiled a guide to summer activities for our mentors and mentees
that include little-known New York summer traditions such as the
following: Macy’s Fishing Contest (an annual contest open to children
15 and under in Prospect Park, with free equipment and instruction
provided), the annual Morningside Park Double Dutch Tournament,
Rock ‘n’ Roller blade (free in-line skate rentals, a DJ, a 4ft
disco ball; the event rotates around to different parks throughout
the city), and many more.
We suggest that mentors focus on a few areas when they work with
youth over the summer. The first is history and culture. New York
neighborhoods are so varied and rich, and in the year following
September 11, it seems important to help kids to re-connect with
the city. We have heard over and over again from youth in our
program, especially on the Lower East Side, that they don’t feel
very safe in New York. We need to take them out and let them see
that life goes on not as normal, certainly, but in spite of adversity.
Ground Zero may be important for some young people to see for
themselves. Be sure to introduce children to local libraries;
sign them up for cards and help them to choose books about their
neighborhoods or ethnic backgrounds. Ask at the library for a
copy of their invaluable booklet, “New York Books for New York
Kids.” Books are listed by borough-interest as well as reading
Regular exercises and activity should be encouraged. We can suggest
that kids get off the train or bus a stop early and walk, or think
about going outside to pitch a ball or even just take a walk.
This year Mentoring USA has partnered with the NY Jets and United
Way to offer a fabulous opportunity to our pairs: free tickets
to see the NY Jets! This year our mentors and mentees will have
the opportunity to get together a little before the start of the
school year, at the NY Jets Preseason Games on Aug. 24 and Aug.
30. Football fans or not, what youth wouldn’t jump at the chance
to take at trip to the Meadowlands with a mentor? A few lucky
youth and mentors will even get the chance to participate in the
coin-toss on the field…a great way to generate enthusiasm for
the upcoming mentoring year!
While mentors and mentees enjoy their time together this summer,
Mentoring USA staff will be hard at work recruiting mentors for
the upcoming school year. Even the best mentoring relationships
are subject to life’s whims—children change schools, mentors get
transferred, or married, and move out of the city. Approximately
half of our nearly 1,000 mentors will not return, so during the
summer we enthusiastically recruit more mentors. Mentors are especially
needed to work with youth in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island
and Queens…if you have ever said to yourself, “I really would
like to be a positive role model to a young person,” this is the
time to try! To become a mentor, call (212) 253-1194, ext. 454
or email email@example.com.
For all the hard work you do all year long, all of us at Mentoring
USA wish you a happy and healthy summer!#
Cuomo is the former first lady of NY and founder and Chairperson
of Mentoring USA.
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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