To most Springfield College students, the month of January may seem like a time filled with a couple of weeks of relaxation at home or elsewhere, followed by maybe a couple of weeks of classes and/or other commitments. For the Office of Student Volunteer Programs though, January is National Mentoring Month.
National Mentoring Month is a very important time of year for the office. They take time to thank the hundreds of students on the Springfield College campus who participate in mentoring programs such as the Brookings Learning and Support Team (BLAST) or the Partners Program. This can take the form of local youth and mentoring programs thanking the Springfield College student mentors.
Charlene Elvers has been the Director of Student Volunteer Programs for 12 years and enjoys being able to recognize and honor the students on campus who are part of these programs and may not typically get the recognition they deserve.
“One reason we like to do that is I think a lot of the mentoring happens behind the scenes,” Elvers said. “Sometimes a student is out in a school all by themselves, mentoring youth, and nobody sees that. So we like to bring it to everyone’s attention that we have hundreds, literally hundreds of students on this campus who are serving in a mentoring role. What that means is that they’re connecting with a youth every single week. It’s not just kind of a one time, ‘Oh, I met this kid, I’m his mentor.’ It’s a weekly relationship that they’re building and developing.”
One of Elvers’ former students in Humanics Seminar is junior Katie Patrick. The Psychology and Sociology double major recently interned with the Student Volunteer Programs and was their special events coordinator.
“I got the opportunity to work with her [Elvers] over the summer and I recruited for Humanics in Action Day and their leadership floors, the Emerging Leaders’ program and their Fit to Lead program. So I did all this stuff for Humanics in Action Day and we were doing stuff like Hunger Awareness Week, so I just did the whole volunteer thing,” Patrick said.
Patrick feels that mentoring youth makes such a positive impact and that is particularly the case with Springfield youth. Like Elvers, Patrick likes how during National Mentoring Month the many mentors from campus get the deserved recognition.
“The thing that is challenging is that a lot of people don’t realize that there are mentoring positions or they’re just really humble about it. That’s why we ask faculty to point them out and we recognize them for the work they do,” Patrick said.
Something more specific that the Office of Student Volunteer Programs has done in the past to recognize volunteers is having the youth design postcards thanking their mentors. Additionally, a few years ago, volunteers were thanked publically during halftime of a Springfield College basketball game.
Regardless of the amount of acknowledgement and credit that these mentors may get, it is clear that they have made a strong impact on many of these children’s lives.
“What I hear from the youth and from parents sometimes is that our students don’t really know how much of an impact they make just by being part of their kid’s lives,” Elvers said. “So it’s a way for Springfield College as a whole to say thank you to people who are doing this.”