Student success comes with lasting relationships

When a school social worker noticed shy Jasmine struggling academically, he asked the Norwalk Mentor Program to match her with someone.

The Norwalk Mentor Program is a part of the Humans Services Council, a private nonprofit agency in Fairfield County, Connecticut, whose programs provide alcohol and drug prevention education, child advocacy, school-based medical and mental health services for children and adolescents, supportive housing services, and school-based mentoring to those in need.

The Norwalk Mentor Program trains adult volunteers and matches them with Norwalk Public School students who need more support.

mentee and mentor at high school graduation Mentee Kayla and mentor Jackie Roberson. (Photo: Human Services Council)

Jasmine* and Alexa* were matched through the Norwalk Mentor Program in 2011, when Jasmine was in elementary school. Like so many of the mentees in our program, Jasmine had to overcome many obstacles. She relied on free lunch at school, as do 78% of our mentees. Additionally, one-third of the students in our program speak a language other than English at home.

When a school social worker noticed shy Jasmine struggling academically, he asked the Norwalk Mentor Program to match her with someone. Alexa and Jasmine first met to play games and talk, and their relationship has continued to evolve as the years went by.

a mentor and mentee Established in 1986, the Norwalk Mentor Program was the first school-based mentoring program in the country. (Photo: Human Services Council)

This June, Alexa watched with pride as Jasmine graduated from high school. Mentees who graduate high school are eligible for a scholarship, which Jasmine received to help her with her education. The following is an essay Jasmine wrote for Alexa:

My Mentor's name is Alexa. We have been together since I was in the 3rd grade. We don't see each other as often as we did back then, but we still make time to see each other several times a month. She has been there when I was going through some tough times.

One time I gave up. I didn't want to do anything or be here. I was depressed. I didn't have a good relationship with my mother or my dad-- He wasn't around. And my mother was very hard on me. I was getting bullied a lot at school too. This went on in elementary school, but it got worse in middle school, around 7th grade. Alexa understood what I was going through, because she's Greek, and her mother's tough too. She could relate to me.

She was the first person who actually cared for me and thought that I would be somebody. She knew I would be something someday. She would say things like, "Get it together! You might not believe in yourself, but I believe in you!"

Yesterday, I found out I was accepted into Lincoln Tech's medical assisting program. I'm excited about learning about this field. I am also excited just to go to school because I didn't think I could. I didn't think I was capable. Alexa is going to be so excited. She's going to say "See? I told you. You can accomplish anything. You're a smart girl."

Jasmine’s story could have gone differently, but in the Norwalk Mentor Program, student success is common. The program recently celebrated a 100% graduation rate and 100% college acceptance in 2019. One-third of the graduates have been with their mentors since elementary school. The program formally ends when a student graduates, but for most, this bond continues to withstand the test of time.

mentor and mentee at hs graduation The Norwalk Mentor Program trains adult volunteers and matches them with Norwalk Public School students who need more support. (Photo: Human Services Council)

The Norwalk Mentor Program is grateful to the Newman’s Own Foundation for their support of relationships like Jasmine and Alexa’s. We are also thankful for our caring mentors, who give an hour a week to a child in need of support. That hour turns into a life-changing impact for our children in need. If you are interested in mentoring and live or work in the Norwalk area, please visit our site or send an email.

*Names changed for privacy

Human Services Council logo

The Human Services Council creates and fosters programs that educate, safeguard and empower the people of our communities. The mission of the Norwalk Mentor Program (“NMP”) is to encourage the social, academic and mental growth of Norwalk’s youth through a one on one mentoring relationship; where a caring adult serves as a role model to a youth as he or she goes through a difficult period or faces new challenges.

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