Community Mentoring Program

MAAV’s Community Mentoring Program was launched in 2005 as part of our youth violence prevention initiative. The program linked volunteer adults with middle school students for ongoing guidance and support, both in a group setting and on a one-to-one basis. Mentoring has been shown to help students with a range of issues, including school attendance, aggressive behavior, being targets of bullying or witnessing domestic violence in the home. The purpose of these relationships is to support students in developing resiliency and making positive life choices.

In 2020, MAAV transitioned to a Peer Mentoring Program, pairing high school aged mentors with middle school students. The high school students, who are screened, trained and supervised by MAAV staff, are old enough to be role models and provide guidance to younger students while also being young enough to identify with issues that affect them. They can let younger students know that their feelings are normal and they are not alone. Our program is limited to students in the Melrose Public Schools.

Why mentoring?

Middle school can be tough. It’s a time of change. Changing schools, changing classes each period, changing bodies, changing social groups… It’s natural that the transition from elementary school to middle school can be anxiety provoking for both students and parents.

Many of the issues that middle schoolers face have not changed over the years: fitting in, making friends, puberty, and academic expectations- but social media and iPhones can add a layer of anxiety that most parents did not face at the same age.  

Studies have shown that students who experience difficulty with this transition have lower self-esteem than their peers, may lack strong support at home, have experienced academic failure, or struggle socially (US Dept. of Education Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools September 2008)  

Studies also show that mentored students are:

  • 27% less likely to start using alcohol
  • 53% less likely to skip school
  • 27% less likely to skip a class
  • Almost 33% less likely to hit someone
  • Get along better with their peers
  • Get along better with their parents

(Source: Public/Private Ventures)

Goals of the program

Research has shown academic performance, motivation and attitude towards school and self-esteem all tend to decline as students transition to middle school and the early teen years (Mentoring Resource Center Fact Sheet 2008). The goal of MAAV’s Peer Mentoring Program is to help ease this transition through a shared experience with both mentees their own age and high school aged mentors by:

  • Increasing or maintaining academic performance
  • Improving attendance and/or on-time arrival at school
  • Involvement in school or extra curricula activities

How the program works

The program begins with peer mentors and mentees meeting as a group for six consecutive weeks, facilitated by Mentoring Program Coordinator Alison Bryer, LCSW. The initial six weeks of meetings include ice breakers and activities that are meant to help the group get to know each other.  During this time each 6th grader will be “matched” with a high school student who will serve as their mentor throughout the duration of the program.

After the initial six weeks of meeting, the group transitions to meeting twice a month. Matches will not get together outside of the supervised group.

Participants

All peer mentors will participate in a multi-phase training. Because they are high school students and not trained mental health professionals, mentees with significant special needs or behavior problems are not appropriate. The ideal participant would be the child that might otherwise “fall through the cracks,” and could be successful with a little support. 

For more information, contact MAAV’s Mentoring Program Coordinator Alison Bryer at mentoring@maav.org or (781) 662-2010.