In the Friends Youth Mentoring Program, SPS students give back, and get something in return.
BY JACQUELINE PRIMO LEMMON
On Monday evenings at 5:30, Jonathan Dase ’24 can be found at the Hockey Center with 10-year-old Jose, a local public school student and Dase’s mentee in the Friends Youth Mentoring Program. For 15 minutes or so, Dase and Jose — along with other St. Paul’s student mentors and the elementary schoolers they have been matched with — spend time chatting before going on to dinner at Coit Dining Hall. And while Dase wants to make sure his mentee enjoys their mentorship sessions, his priority is trying to support Jose’s intrinsic appreciation for knowledge, curiosity and kindness.
“One thing I’ll sometimes do is, he’s a little interested in math, so I’ll give him math problems. Some people think I’m goofy for it, but I want him to be as smart as possible,” Dase says. Often, he and Jose will stay to watch the SPS hockey teams practice before they head to dinner. If there’s a long line in the dining hall, they’ll keep the conversation going. “We’ll walk around and we’ll just continue to talk about life and everything that’s going on and anything he’s struggling with,” Dase continues.
Dase and Jose are just one pair in the Friends Program, which matches local elementary school kids who could use some extra support, academically or otherwise, with SPS Fifth and Sixth Formers. Mentees come to the grounds once a week, and mentors have the opportunity to travel to their schools for additional weekly mentoring.
In their last session, Dase says the conversation drifted to the topic of planets, and Jose impressed him with how much he knew. After dinner, the pair will sometimes head to Mathes Cage to play wall ball while other duos work on basic athletic skills to boost the younger kids’ self-confidence, so the mentees feel more comfortable engaging in recess and physical education with their peers.
Elizabeth Esteves ’23 has been involved with the Friends Program since fall 2021, when she became the Fifth Form peer leader for the program. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the program was fully remote at the time, which meant weekly Zoom meetings with mentees. Returning to in-person mentoring this year is a welcome change.
Not only does meeting in person make for more meaningful connections with our mentees, but we are also given access to more activities and engagement opportunities.”