Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What's a "wiki"?

There's no better place to learn about a wiki than at Wikipedia:

A wiki is a website that allows visitors to add, remove, and edit content. A collaborative technology for organizing information on Web sites, the first wiki (WikiWikiWeb) was developed by Ward Cunningham in the mid-1990s. Wikis allow for linking among any number of pages. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for mass collaborative authoring. Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, is one of the best known wikis...
The word wiki is a Hawaiian word meaning "quick". Wiki systems are therefore designed so that their content can be made available in a quick and uncomplicated manner.

So what's all that mean? And how can we use it? Well Suzanne W. Morse of Smart Communities has an offer we can't refuse -
This summer we're offering one-on-one assistance to those interested in using the Learning to Finish wiki to collaborate on solutions to the dropout crisis. We understand that new technologies are intimidating at first but can be extremely rewarding further on down the road. We'll help you overcome any initial trepidation you might feel about participating on a wiki by answering any question (no matter how small) and offering technical assistance to get you pushed to the top of the learning curve as quickly as possible.

The Learning to Finish Wiki is a website "that fosters collaboration between parents, educators, community members, researchers, and students toward lowering the dropout rate." Right now it is made up of 3 sections - Program Case Studies, Background Reading , and Online Links.

As a member of the wiki you can add and edit the information shared. As newbies in the online world of non-profits we are definately going to take advantage of this and we encourage you to join in. The more links we make in our mentoring community, the stronger and more sustainable we become. The Learning to Finish Wiki is a great opportunity to find out how to keep Vermont kids in school and prepare them for the future. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education "Research indicates that about 75 percent of America’s state prison inmates, almost 59 percent of federal inmates, and 69 percent of jail inmates did not complete high school." (from Saving Futures, Saving Dollars; Click for download of PDF report)

Wouldn't it be great to join in and help stop this disturbing trend?

Friday, May 18, 2007

“Step-Up”, spend more time together!

Bill Sheldon is the pastor at the Brownsville Methodist Church and lives in Springfield. He was mentoring Corey through the Let’s Do Lunch Mentoring Program during the lunch hour at Elm Hill Elementary School in Springfield for about a year. However, both Corey and Bill wanted to spend more time together; therefore Bill requested permission to “step up” to our PALS mentoring program which would allow them to spend more time participating in activities in the community nights, weekends and other out-of-school times. The process was simple, he contacted our office, had his fingerprints taken, underwent an FBI Criminal Background check, local and state screenings and the process was complete. Bill was then approved to meet with Corey and participate in some exciting activities.

Last June, Bill, Corey and a high school student in our mentoring programs, had the opportunity to join with the 21st Century After-School Programs in a trip to the New England Aquarium in Boston. They had a terrific time and it was an experience that neither youth will ever forget. They especially enjoyed the penguins, ugly fish and the Imax Theatre.

Also in June, Bill served as “Pastor of the Day” for the Springfield High School Alumni Association’s annual festivities. A highlight of the weekend for Corey was riding in the parade in the special “Pastor of the Day” automobile. Corey and Bill both enjoyed a day in the limelight as dignitaries for the event and are looking forward to many more exciting adventures in the future.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Engaging Communities

Suzanne W. Morse of Smart Communities and the President of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change writes about Sharing the Dream: Stories of Principals Actively Engaging Communities.

This is a new publication from the MetLife Foundation and the National Association of Elementary School Principals that gives an overview of the programs that won grants From the MetLife Foundation for school principals who are actively engaging both the parents and the surrounding community in their schools. The pamphlet is available for download as a PDF and outlines 12 projects around the country that are making a difference.

As Suzanne mentions this is a good place to start when planning our own future projects. We can see what challenges each principal had and how she addressed them. One very inventive solution to engaging parents and a local business was to have a McTeacher event at the local McDonalds. Teachers and staff from the Parkade Elementary School in Columbia, MO sold food and cleared tables when the students and parents came to dinner. Everyone had some fun and the school got some of the profits from the meal. This is a great example of a community-builder combined with a fund-raiser.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


JULY 16 TO 20, 2007
Howard Dean Education Center
307 South Street
Springfield, VT 05156

**Updated with expanded programs on May 21, 2007**
Summer Tech Camp is for students entering the 7th, 8th or 9th grade at any area middle school or home school.

Summer Tech Camp is a big hit with the kids who have attended. We have a variety of activities and classes designed promote career awareness and stimulate interest in the world of technology. Career Professionals will share all the details of their careers and Vermont Student Assistance advisors will show you how to research and plan for anything you might like to explore.

Our classes include
What is the first line of defense against germs? Learn this and more as you investigate first aid, the quick ad correct help people give when anyone gets sick or hurt. You’ll create your own first aid kit, learn how to perform Heimlich Manuever and learn to use sphygmomanometers. Be ready to have fun while learning life-saving techniques!

Sound Design and Audio Production
See any great movies lately? This year’s audio production time will be spent creating original soundtracks and adding sound effects to movie clips and trailers! Want to make Sponge Bob sound like your dog? Want to make your dog bark like a chicken? The magic of sound design makes it all happen.

Whether you can crack an egg or not, this is a program that will teach you the basic skills and techniques needed to created delicious and smart treats to share with your family and friends all year long. Campers love this program!

Experience what it is like to be a landscaper, florist or tree worker in this exciting Horticulture Course. Learn how to make a floral arrangement, climb a tree with an arborist rope and saddle, or maintain landscape plants! Participants should expect to be outside and bring long pants and comfortable shoes to wear.

It’s Magic! Well not really. It’s modern manufacturing but it works like magic. In a single day, campers will invent, design, develop and produce a consumer product. Using state of the art computer and manufacturing equipment as well as a lot of ingenuity, campers will walk away with something they designed in their hands and a better understanding of the manufacturing industry in their head.

An opportunity to express your creative side., You will learn how to write and design a story complete with pictures and photos of your choice. The class will also create a “Summer Tech Camp Week Book” which will include bios and pictures of all the campers.

Using macromedia Flash, you will complete an animation of your own design, download onto a disk & take home or you can put it on the web.

Are you ready to own a business? Try your hand at owning either a convenience store or a football franchise. Using computer simulations you will be responsible for product pricing, promotion, merchandising, market research, staffing, location selection and more! A realistic look into the world of business ownership!

Practice virtual interactive tools that let you animate slideshows, decorate your own birthday cake, create a photo scrapbook and more. Immerse yourself in Digital Design using Adobe Flash, Illustrator and Photoshop.

The Marvels of Digital Movie Making
The members of this group will make a documentary movie about the tech camp. Try your hand at digital movie making; learn to use the video camera, to edit your footage, to overlay sound and then show your finished movie to the entire camp on our final day together.

We also have the other camp activities for everyone to enjoy.
· New games and other camp-like activities
· Creation of a “camp video” using iMovie software
· Design a graphic on computer and print to a tee shirt
· Real Game
· Tour of the Dean Education Center

8:30 a.m. Welcoming Activity
9:00 - 12:00 Technology Camp Activity/Program
12:00 - 12:30 Lunch
12:30 - 2:30 Group Activities, Career Exploration, Camp activity program or
Design your own Tee shirt
2:30 p.m. Camp Day Ends

With sufficient enrollment (at least 5 students from district), transportation will be provided to and from Bellows Falls, Black River, & Green Mountain Union High Schools.

Camp costs *$75 with $40 due with application (non-refundable). The balance must be paid before July 1st. This fee will help to offset the cost of materials, snacks, tee shirts instructors, and various costs of the camp. Scholarships are available upon request.

Marie Gelineau, Executive Director
TELEPHONE (802) 885-8314

**Updated with expanded programs on May 21, 2007**

Monday, May 14, 2007

Proud as a mentor can be… graduation day:

Here is a mentoring story from our Newsletter last year at this time:

Rosina Zaretzki began mentoring Trisha in September of 1999 through the Let’s Do Lunch Mentoring Program, Trisha was in the 6th grade. Rosina has been a faithful and reliable mentor during all of that time and has come to the school for lunch with her mentee, once a week, throughout her middle and high school years. An avid mentor, Rosina has taken advantage of several training opportunities and workshops and is very committed to mentoring.

After several years in the Lunch Mentoring program, the pair decided that they would like to spend more time together; therefore, Rosina made application to join our PALS program. This program incorporates many components of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Mentoring Program. Mentors undergo a full background check, are carefully screened and checked and on successful completion, can then spend time together out in the community. An additional feature for high school students in the mentoring programs is that each year they visit their mentor in the workplace for lunch and a “job shadow”, tour of the company. Dufresne-Henry, now Stantec, Inc, an engineering firm located in North Springfield welcomed the youth to a pizza lunch and has supported mentoring for several years. Many of their employees have part icipated in the mentoring programs. Another long-term mentoring partnership through Dufresne-Henry has been with Peter Andrews mentoring Gary, for the past several years.

Trisha’s future plans are not set in concrete at the present time but include possibilities of the continuation of her education through the local Community College, once she has decided what career(s) she might like to pursue. Trisha is appreciative of all the time that Rosina has spent with her and would like to become a mentor at one of the local elementary schools. She and Rozina have developed a close relationship and also plan to keep in touch with each other in the future. Rosina is also planning to mentor another youth.
~Written by Marie Gelineau

Monday, May 7, 2007

A New Neighbor

One of the most difficult things about running any volunteer organization is getting your message out to like-minded individuals. You can post flyers around town, you can rely on work of mouth, and you can put a press release in the local paper. With the great power of the Internet you can also connect up with people you would never have met in any other way.

And that is how we came across the Neighbor Networking Blog and Habib Rose. Neighbor Networking is also a part of the Tutor/Mentor Blog Exchange going on this month in conjunction with the biannual Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago.

The idea of the neighborhood for a large city is certainly different than the focus for the small cities and rural areas that we have in Vermont. In the post from May 3rd, Habib writes about the pluses of connecting to others within your neighborhood:

[I]n the case of cities on the West Coast, it is my impression that there is always a possibility of connecting people who have needs with neighbors (in their broad neighborhood) who can offer assistance. Making these connections on a neighborhood level rather than all the way across a city offers a number of benefits including:
1. Greater possible frequency of interactions (you don’t have to make a special trip way across town)
2. Higher likelihood of familiarity with the culture, surroundings, and living situation of the kids who are getting help
3. Less time wasted in travel across town
4. Less gasoline wasted, pollution generated etc. (in situations where one or both parties are driving or being driven)

It is my guess that one of the best ways for people to get involved as Tutors/Mentors with T/MC is to know other people who are already Tutors/Mentors. So, the more Tutors/Mentors that get started in any general neighborhood, the greater the likelihood of finding additional people in those same neighborhoods.

Some of these principles can be applied to us in Southern Vermont but we do have to expand our neighborhoods to greater geographic areas. Sometimes there just aren’t enough people in our physical neighborhoods to meet our mentoring needs.

That is why a program like “Let’s Do Lunch” has so much success here. The students are in a central location (school) and the mentors come from local businesses. The neighborhood is expanded and ties between communities are formed. The mentor and mentee may live at opposite ends of the travel spectrum – but they are brought together at lunch. Once the connection is made the mentoring program may expand to after-school and summer activities as well.

We are hoping that we will also be able to expand our neighborhood using this blog and other Web 2.0 applications like bookmarks and Technorati.

We are also expanding our virtual neighborhood as much as possible but we’re also looking for ideas of how to connection this blog to local people. How do you get the word out to people who may not be looking for you? This weekend we handed out flyers about the blog at Green Up Day in Springfield. A decidedly non-tech solution. But every little bit helps!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Happy Green Up Day!

Originally uploaded by VTmentoring.

The first Saturday in May is Green Up Day in Vermont.
Green up Day was started in 1970 by Governor Deane C. Davis. Vermont was the first state to designate a day for residents to join together as a community and have a statewide Spring Cleaning.

If you haven’t joined in before today would be a great time to start. If you don’t live in Vermont why not get outside anyway and pick up some trash. Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs some help? Why not go over and work on their yard today? Is there an intersection near your house with candy wrappers, soda cans and other trash building up? Why not get out there and clean that area? You’ll be surprised how good you feel when you’re done.

Every town in Vermont is having an organized clean up today. If you go out today you’ll be sure to bump into them and you won’t be sent away. Or you can check the Green-Up Vermont organizers' site to find out where things are happening in your neck-of-the–woods.

Bring your mentor or your mentee. It's a good chance to do something new together.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Do you get excited when you see your name in print?

So do we! The Vermont Mentoring Blog has joined the Tutor-Mentor Blog Exchange for May. We will be telling you about other mentoring sites like the Cabriniblog from Chicago that we mentioned in our April 30th post.

In addition they will be blogging about us! This has already started and the exchange of links and ideas will not only help to get our name out there, but will also help get the word out about mentoring and how it can help a community grow.

So if you are interested - link up with us through the Tutor-Mentor Blog Exchange and get your name in print. And if you are a local mentor or mentee and would like to tell us your story - contact us at or contact Marie Gelineau at

And of course we hope to see you in person this Saturday, May 5th in Springfield at the Commons to help with Green-Up Day . Come help us celebrate our community!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

And Now a Word From Our Director ...

Since we have been blogging for an entire 5 days now, we thought it would be a good time to give you a clearer picture of what we actually do.  So our director, Marie Gelineau, wrote up the following overview of our group:

Each year we are contacted by folks looking for mentors for youngsters at their schools and that’s our biggest challenge. We always have a long waiting list of children waiting for mentors. We coordinate 5 “arms” of mentoring, thus the name “Starfish Initiative” for our programs:

Let’s Do Lunch Mentoring Program (LDL) is a school-based mentoring program in which mentors meet with their assigned youth, one day a week, during lunch time, only on-campus, and only during the school year. Some mentors and youth are in their seventh year in the mentoring relationship. Mentors are provided for children grades 1 to 12.

Lunch and More is an extension of the LDL program and was developed in response to requests from mentors and youth who wanted to spend more time together. In addition to meeting at the school each week, mentors that successfully complete the RightFoot screening process can also meet with their assigned youth under the auspices of the Springfield Club. Mentors and youth can participate in all the activities sponsored by the Club or in other youth programs supervised activities.

PALS (Promoting Assets that Lead to Success) follows the Big Brothers/Big Sisters model. Mentors are carefully screened including an FBI background check and driving record check and are matched with a child that has similar interests. Mentors can meet the youth at school for lunch as well as spend time with the child out in the community. Mentors are encouraged to meet with the youth for three to five hours weekly.

SPARK (Seniors Promoting Asset building & Resiliency in Kids) is a program with senior citizens as mentors, “grand mentors” mentor pre-school children in a supervised classroom setting. Mentors also connect with parents or guardians to begin a relationship. The mentor may continue to mentor a particular child when he/she enters kindergarten and in future years.

Just Now is a pre-charge restorative justice program. For the past four years, we have matched youth that are enrolled in this program with adults in the “PALS” mentoring program. One of our big successes is that several youth are matched with mentors and none of them have committed a second offense. This speaks to the benefits of a young person having a caring adult mentor. Experience is fostered with a positive role model and it provides an opportunity for the youth to know that their community cares about them.

These programs promote positive connections between businesses, schools and the community as well as career awareness opportunities for students. We also provide an opportunity for students to visit their mentor’s workplace for lunch and a job shadow experience before the end of each school year.

These programs are currently financially supported by Springfield Lions and Rotary Clubs, Union Street, Elm Hill and Park Street P.T.A.s, Springfield Savings & Loan Assoc., Merchants Bank, Bryant Credit Union, United Way of Southern Windsor County, Springfield Police Association, and by grants from Agency of Human Services, Safe and Drug-free Schools & Communities Program. Other supporters are Springfield Public Schools, Springfield Prevention Coalition and the Southern State Correctional Facility who provides fingerprinting services for mentor background checks. And as always we are supported by people like YOU.

Thank you for your support!
Marie Gelineau, Executive Director

For information about getting a mentor or becoming a mentor contact Marie at TRVBEP at (802) 885-8314.  

If you can't become a mentor please consider a donation to help support our efforts.  The "Donate" area on the right panel of our blog will allow you to donate securely online.  If you prefer,  you can also mail a donation to TRV, 307 South Street, Springfield, VT 05156