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Robert J. Kaiser Middle School launches mentorship program

May 15, 2017

students and their mentors participate in a gameRobert J. Kaiser Middle School (RJK) students will soon have an extra layer of support surrounding them. The school has begun a pilot of the New York State Mentoring program and is the only pilot site in Sullivan County. This program, chaired by the Honorable Matilda Raffa Cuomo, creates new opportunities for children by providing one-to-one, school-based mentoring that helps students build relationships and develop social and emotional skills.

According to the program’s website, children who succeed in the face of personal, economic or social challenges often do so because of a caring adult in their lives. The mentoring program seeks to connect such an adult with students who may be at risk for dropping out of school. Students who participate in the program are 46 percent less likely to start using illegal drugs and 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school. They also feel more supported and less criticized by peers.

RJK Career Coach, Joy Janusas, recruited six students in grade 6-8 to take part in the program, and Brad DiPietro from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services recruited seven community members to serve as mentors. The community members took part in an extensive background check and training prior to the program’s launch on April 20, 2017 at RJK. Several local businesses, including First National Bank of Jeffersonville, Sullivan Renaissance and Independent Living supported the program by enabling their employees to adjust their schedules in order to participate. One of the mentors, Air Mir Pontier was active in the program in the 1980’s when the program was initially founded by First Lady Cuomo and is happy with the program’s refinements since its 2015 relaunch.

Students meet up with their mentors on a weekly basis in a classroom to engage in collaborative games and one on one activities that are student-driven. The students love to play board games and so do the mentors. The laughter from both the students and mentors is contagious making it hard to tell who is mentoring who.

"Our mentors and mentees have a big impact on each other and they have fun along the way," Mr. DiPietro said.

For more information or to participate in the program contact Dana Taylor, Innovation Instigator at Monticello Central School District (845)-794-7700 X30847 or