Whitman Mentor Program - Planning to Make a Difference

By Allison Burns March 25, 2013

Planning to Make a Difference

When I first got hired to be an intern for the Whitman Mentor Program, I was told two specific pieces of advice: first, brace yourself for assigning matches at the beginning of the year; and second, brace yourself for Mentees to Campus Day in the spring. Needless to say, as soon as my co-intern and I made it through the matching process we fixed our eye on the prize, and immediately started mulling over the various tasks that we would need to accomplish in order to successfully facilitate the large carnival. We consulted notes and emails taken from various years, consulted with the intervention specialists who work with our schools, and solicited advice and feedback from some of our veteran mentors. As a result of all of this research, the days leading up to the event were filled with constant deliberation over the ways in which we could push the event to grow, as well as specific activities we wanted to edit out.

Perhaps as a direct result of this obsession with Mentees to Campus Day, the big day itself snuck up on me. I found myself standing in the Community Service Office at 7:30 in the morning, sorting through the hundreds of prizes we had purchased and envisioning the 400plus people directly involved with the event. 5 hours, 2 lattes, 12 booths, 30 set-up volunteers, and 1 put-put course later, I found myself in Cordiner Hall, standing on a bench and looking over the sea of Mentors and Mentees greeting each other and signing in. I watched in awe as every single person seemed to find who they were supposed to be with, and the intervention specialists waved relieved "thumbs-up" signals at me. When I finally announced that it was time for the masses to move over to Reid (where the carnival took place), the children in the room answered in cheers that took the form of a dull roar, and raced for the doors as fast as they could while keeping their mentors in tow.

I ... watched in amazement as the event unfolded successfully before my eyes

Once we arrived at Reid I took my own mentee through the various booths and activities at the carnival, and watched in amazement as the event unfolded successfully before my eyes. Children were laughing, shouting, and even-occasionally-dancing with joy all around me. For a moment I felt chills as I thought to the hundreds of referral forms Nathan and I had studied tirelessly at the beginning of the year. These forms profiled all of the at-risk youth within the Walla Walla Public Schools, and named the various ways in which each child could benefit from having a mentor. Mentees to Campus Day both embodied and embellished the ways in which our program has fruitfully brought happiness and strength to children in the Walla Walla community, and I will always be grateful to have been a part of that process.