Unique mentoring program in Western MA

Guest blogger Dennis Quinn is the director of mentoring programs at Reader-to-Reader in Amherst, MA

“Give me a lever and a place to stand,” the Greek polymath Archimedes said, “and I will move the world.” Together, Reader to Reader, an Amherst-based nonprofit, and Springfield’s Central High School have paired a proven lever – mentoring – with a relatively new place to stand – a discussion forum on the internet.

[caption id="attachment_1083" align="alignright" width="300"]Dennis Quinn, left, with Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse Dennis Quinn, left, with Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse[/caption]

Here, 9th and 10th grade students connect with mentors from Amherst and Hampshire Colleges to discuss books that they choose from a library of excellent, engaging young adult literature.

If you were to visit a classroom at Central High School, you might see the world of academic engagement move in an innovative way.

Through discussion, the mentors help students apply such Common Core literacy skills as comprehending complex readings, asking and answering text-focused questions, and developing evidence to support an interpretation. The students choose their own books from a library of shared titles, and both the students and mentors read and write every day as they work through a book together.

Granted, it’s not what most people think of as mentoring. For one thing, there is almost no face-to-face contact. But in many ways, this is an important feature of the program. Students have time to reflect and formulate sophisticated thoughts about their readings before putting those thoughts into written form. In addition, technology in the classroom allows the program to integrate into the classroom curriculum, rather than working as an adjunct to the school day.

Most of all, this “e-mentoring” format has been a hit with the tech-savvy population in our public schools, with students reporting improvements in their own ability and confidence related to reading comprehension, writing skills, and seeing different perspectives.

We’ve found that technology allows a tested tool like mentoring to work in an entirely new way – as part of the school day, with a large population, with a minimum of disruption and cost.

We are honored to be affiliated with Mass Mentoring Partnership. As an ally and advocate for Western Massachusetts mentoring programs, they help us strengthen our programs and outreach in the communities we serve.