Last week, MENTOR Vermont welcomed mentoring program coordinators and mentoring advocates from across the state to the 2023 Vermont Mentoring Symposium, which was held at the Waterbury State Office Complex. The theme for the annual 2023 Symposium was “Fostering Self-Agency in Youth,” with sessions focused on how mentors can create an environment where youth are empowering themselves, where adults work alongside young people, and support them to thrive in their own right.
The annual mentoring conference brought together over 40 youth mentoring program staff and supporters from across the state for a series of networking and professional development sessions focused on empowering youth to take authority over their own future, through strong relationships that prioritize mental health and resiliency.
Jen Colman, Burlington-based child psychotherapist, provided the keynote entitled,” Fostering Mentoring and Wellness Relationships.”
“As the youth mental health crisis grows and mental health professionals cannot meet the demand, the need for mentoring relationships are essential for youth to continue to grow and become contributing members of their communities,” said Colman.
Chris Winters, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, attended the event and thanked Vermont’s mentoring community. “Our Department places a high priority on ensuring youth have strong networks of natural support. Our partnership with MENTOR Vermont directly supports this part of our mission,” said Winters. “Mentoring provides youth with the opportunity to form positive relationships and connections, as well as build out youth and children’s support networks and family capacity to work toward accomplishing their individual goals.”
Dr. Rebecca Haslam of Seed the Way delivered the afternoon plenary entitled, “Self-Agency and Community Care: Reflexive Practices for Equity & Justice.”
The Symposium wrapped up with a session by a MENTOR Vermont “Ambassador of Mentoring pair,” with Ka’marrey and Barbie, who walked us through their mentoring journey and the impact mentoring has had on their lives.
“My favorite part of the symposium was hearing everyone’s reactions to our book idea and seeing how truly interested they were in our mentoring journey,” said Ka’marrey, a 14 year old freshman at Rutland High School who has been paired with Barbie Spaulding for seven years. Barbie is an author and formerly worked at the Rutland Herald newspaper.
“The time spent with Ka’marrey preparing for our portion of the symposium will stay with me forever. It’s where we came up with the concept to collaborate on a book about mentoring. Sharing this experience has brought us closer and given us a renewed respect for mentoring and a future goal.”
Additional support for the Symposium was made possible by Lisa Schamberg and Pat Robins and National Partnership for Student Success Community Collaboration Challenge. More information about the event and about youth mentoring in Vermont can be found by visiting www.mentorvt.org.
About MENTOR Vermont: MENTOR Vermont aims to close the mentoring gap and drive equity through quality mentoring relationships so every young person in Vermont has the supportive relationships they need to grow and thrive. To achieve this vision, MENTOR Vermont provides funding, resources, and support to the youth mentoring field in Vermont to strengthen the quality and broaden the reach of mentoring relationships throughout the state. In addition to the annual Vermont Mentoring Symposium, the organization manages the Vermont Mentoring Grants, provides technical support to mentoring program staff, maintains an online program directory and referral system for volunteers, manages a quality-based program management database, raises public awareness of mentoring, works with programs to ensure they are meeting best practices, and leads statewide mentoring initiatives. MENTOR Vermont is the state affiliate of MENTOR National. For more information about mentoring programs and initiatives in Vermont, visit www.mentorvt.org.