Officials praise mentors; program may expand

Published Jun 3, 2018 at 9:00am

The Rome school district’s mentoring program, which last fall expanded from three to five elementary schools, has successfully completed its second year and is being praised by district Superintendent Peter C. Blake.

More than 40 children in the five schools benefited from the program, “thanks to volunteer mentors who dedicated one hour a week from October through May helping children achieve their full potential,” according to an announcement.

Blake praised 42 volunteers from the community for their time and commitment in mentoring children. He commented that “throughout the school year, special bonds were created between mentors and their mentees that will have a positive effect on the kids for years to come.”

Blake also applauded Amanda S. Jones, the district’s Director of Counseling Services, for directing the program, plus site coordinators who oversaw the weekly mentoring sessions: Renee Bledsoe, Paula Foote, Laurie Jones, Regina Kekis, Denice Luczak, and Jodi Marchione.

The district’s mentoring program for the 2017-18 school year concluded last week. Children received a Certificate of Achievement and mentors received a Certificate of Appreciation, all signed by the superintendent.

The district, in partnership with the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce and the New York State (NYS) Mentoring Program, launched its program in three schools during the 2016-17 year and then expanded to five for 2017-18. Blake said the district will consider offering it in all seven elementary schools in the next school year.

Chamber President William K. Guglielmo said the chamber has taken a lead role in promoting the program through informational meetings, mass e-mailings, news releases, and radio interviews, in conjunction with the chamber’s Education Committee chaired by Deborah Grogan. He said this has resulted in the recruitment of volunteers from area businesses plus from the community-at-large, including retired persons.

Brad DiPietro, Eastern New York Director of the NYS Mentoring Program, said “the community’s support for the Rome program is impressive, especially considering the time commitment that volunteer mentors must make,” the announcement said. He was the state liaison for the Rome district program, including providing training and supervising the security-fingerprinting process for volunteers.

Frank P. Di Berardino, who is on the Advisory Council of the NYS Mentoring Program and helped organize the Rome mentoring sites, said the purpose of mentoring is to help school children develop self-esteem, improve social skills, learn respect for others, and achieve personal success. He cited studies from recent years regarding long-term benefits.

Former New York First Lady Matilda R. Cuomo, founder and chair of the NYS Mentoring Program, said the Rome district’s program serves as a model for schools in other regions of the state, according to the announcement. She has visited Rome over the past two years to meet with local school officials and business leaders.

For more information about the Rome Mentoring Program, or to sign up early to be a mentor this fall, call the Rome school district at 315-338-6500, the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce at 315-337-1700, or DiBerardino at 315-337-4721.