The Whitman Mentor Program began in 1994 as a senior psychology thesis of Jamey Wolverton. He was interested in how the mentoring relationship affected “at-risk” third, fourth, and fifth grade students. During the first year of the program, twenty-three pairs participated in the study at Berney Elementary School. Wolverton found that the students’ attendance rates and self-esteem improved significantly.
Today, there are over one hundred sixty mentor pairs in eight Walla Walla public schools who visit every week during lunchtime at the mentees' school. Each spring, the mentees visit Whitman College Campus as part of a full day carnival called Mentees to Campus Day, in which mentees and mentors enjoy activities such as mini golf, a bouncy castle, pin the tail on the donkey, face painting, a cow milking competition (with a wooden cow!), and many other games run by Whitman student volunteers. The mentors' energy and dedication continues to make an impact not only on their mentees' lives, but on their own.
Here are some stories:
“I just wanted to let you know that [this mentee's] mother came to see me and she wanted to extend her thankfulness to [his] mentor. He's been going through a lot lately and having you as his mentor is an extra positive in the face of so many negatives in his life. Please know that you are greatly appreciated.” –Intervention Specialist at Sharpstein Elementary
“I was having dinner with her a few weeks ago and we ran into the intervention specialist at her elementary school. Unfortunately I don't remember her name. When she discovered who [the mentor’s] mentee was, she said [this mentor] was the best mentor she had ever worked with. Apparently [her] consistency and ability to connect with the boy led to a very positive change! He became less aggressive and started attending school more regularly. She was very passionate about [her] mentoring abilities!” – Mentor speaking about a fellow Mentor
“[These mentors] mentor twin brothers and these boys don't normally communicate with their peers. But this year they have both begun to open up and become more social. What is great about [these two mentors] is that they don't always do things with the twins together. They will get them to participate in different games with different groups of kids. The teachers have noticed that the boys are more willing to talk with their peers.” –Intervention Specialist at Berney Elementary
“[This mentor] is so enthusiastic and positive with a very high energy kid. [He] faithfully comes and faithfully plays hard!” – Intervention Specialist at Pioneer Middle School
“It was very fun to see all the kids having such a great time with your mentors. Congratulations on the wonderful day you put together and the great program throughout the year. I know the Whitman mentors really make a difference in these students’ lives. Thank you. And yes, it is true, we milked a cow [at the cow milking booth]! It was fun, especially to be getting cheered on so enthusiastically by the Whitman students running the event. I am looking forward to telling my children about it tonight.” –Faculty guest at Mentees to Campus Day
“Thank YOU all for ALL YOUR HARD WORK....The students talked excitedly all the way back on the bus. [Mentees to Campus Day] is a highlight of the year.” – Intervention Specialist at Edison Elementary
“All of the kids adore [this mentor] and her mentee. [He] started asking me when [she] was going to return right after he got to school. She plays with the kids and always makes sure the kids are playing fair and having fun. [She] always has a smile on her face and I can tell she is having a great time mentoring. I have spoken to [his] mom and she said that he talks about [her] all of the time and she is thankful for the relationship that [this mentor] has built with her son.” –Intervention Specialist at Berney Elementary
“Thanks for the great day! I really appreciate all the hard work you put into organizing [Mentees to Campus Day]. It was enormous undertaking and a huge success. The kids had a wonderful time. One boy said, ‘this was the best day ever!’ I had a 2nd grade boy that did not want to come. He's primarily speaks Spanish and I think he was afraid and nervous. I managed to get him to go and he had a wonderful time. I knew he would if he just got there. His mentor was great. When we were lining up to come back to school, he looked at me with a huge smile and said ‘Awesome!’ Thanks!” –Intervention Specialist at Green Park Elementary
“I wanted to send you an e-mail to tell you how impressed I was with Mentees to Campus Day. I worked at the Cow Milking booth and had a great time. This was my first real exposure to the Whitman Mentoring Program, and I was blown away. I had no idea that so many of my peers were involved with this program. Way to go! Everyone seemed to have a great time.” – Mentees to Campus Day Volunteer
“[This mentor] is new this year and his mentee couldn't be more excited when he comes. [He] will encourage his mentee to play with the other kids and gets a game going. Even though he has a height advantage [he] will make sure he is not dominating the basketball game and makes sure that all of the kids are able to participate in the game.”–Intervention Specialist at Berney Elementary
How to Volunteer:
Mentor Applications will be available again in September. If you have any questions, please contact us!