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Bangor school system continues mentor program during challenging COVID-19 school year

The program pairs high school, middle school students with elementary students to help with homework, other support.

BANGOR, Maine — Every Thursday, fourth- and fifth-graders at Fairmount School look forward to getting out of school. On that day, Bangor High School students show up to work as mentors.

This mentor program has been part of the Bangor school system for almost a decade. High school and middle school students who want to get involved are paired up with elementary students. The pairs meet together for an hour and a half once a week.

Fourth-grader Charlotte Eaton said she and her mentor, BHS junior Julia Bassi, have a lot in common. 

"All day I'm just like looking forward to the end of the day to see her," Eaton said. 

Eaton said Bassi also helps her make new friends.

"She usually doesn't have any homework cause she's pretty smart and she does it already so we'll just talk about our days and our weeks and then we can play some games," Bassi said. 

The one requirement of this program is that the high school students have to help the younger ones finish their homework and practice flashcards. Then they're able to have a little fun. 

Kristin Tlili, a school counselor at Fairmount, is in charge of the program and pairing up students. She said this year they have more volunteers than ever before with 27 pairs of students with mentors. 

"It's amazing to me how well they end up meshing and how much they end up having in common," Tlili said. 

Tlili said she tries to pair them up based on shared interests. She usually pairs boys with boys and girls with girls to make sure everyone feels comfortable. 

BHS freshman Andrew Neubert is a mentor to fourth-grader Brian Chaples.

"It's been really fun actually. Brian's pretty cool," Neubert said. 

Along with going over homework and playing games, Neubert gives Chaples lessons that are hard to learn in the classroom. 

"I was kind of bullied a lot and I learned how to I guess ignore them or be a bit better than them so I'm trying to teach him how to ignore them," Neubert said. 

Chaples said Neubert has helped him make lots of new friends. 

"It kind of makes me feel better cause now I know that I have people who have my back and I have their back," Chaples added. 

Tlili said she is hopeful more high school students will get involved as this program continues so that every student who wants a mentor can have one. 

She said she often hears at the end of every school year that the mentors find this experience very rewarding.

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