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Buddies in the classroom

Aspen Times writer
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In September 2003, The Buddy Program launched a school-based mentoring program at Aspen Middle School.

To introduce this innovative initiative to our community, Dr. Susan Weinberger, a nationally recognized expert on mentoring, addressed our schools and the general public on the benefits of mentoring. She also conducted training sessions for the new in-school volunteer mentors. One of those volunteers was Becky Dombrowski.

Becky learned about the opportunity to serve as a mentor through the Aspen Skiing Co. After completing the training with Dr. Weinberger, she was paired with Hillary Johnson, an Aspen Middle School fifth-grader in Debbie Kreutzer’s class. Since that time, the pair has gotten together once a week during the school day.

Becky and Hillary make the most out of their one-on-one visits. They alternate on taking the lead on deciding the activity for the week. I met with them on a day when Hillary had made plans to teach Becky how to play her favorite card game, “speed.”

Whether it is playing games or eating lunch at the high school cafeteria, these two have stayed busy and have become fast friends. They are already looking forward to the next school year and the time they will spend together once Hillary is a sixth-grader.

Becky was attracted to the school-based mentoring program because it fits with her busy schedule; finding an hour a week to meet with Hillary at the school is easily doable for Becky, general manager of the Snowmass Club. She enjoys being involved at the school and, since she has no children of her own, Becky finds it “interesting to see kids at school and in different stages.”

Hillary looks forward to seeing Becky each week.

“It is a nice thing to do instead of the regular lunch stuff,” she said. “Becky is my mentor.”

Hillary’s mother, Lori Chappell, is also keen on the benefits of the school-based mentoring program.

“The relationship has increased Hillary’s independence and self-awareness. Having a buddy at school has given her the confidence to express herself,” Lori said. “She has really become a stronger person. Becky has increased Hillary’s desire to be more involved at school in a variety of ways.”

Lori emphasizes that although Hillary is fortunate to be part of a large, caring family, the role Becky is playing in Hillary’s life only adds to the supportive environment at home. “It is a great opportunity to have a mentor, another healthy, responsible adult in Hillary’s life,” she said.

Hillary highly recommends the program to her friends at school.

“The one-on-one time with mentors makes students feel extra special. I wish everyone could have a buddy,” said Debbie Kreutzer.

To date there are 11 pairs of school-based buddies at Aspen Middle School. The Buddy Program is planning to expand the program to Basalt in the fall. If you are interested in being a mentor to a child in school, please contact Elizabeth Miller at 925-5717, extension 3. If you are interested in learning more about The Buddy Program, contact Cathy Fisher Greuter at 925-5717 or visit us at http://www.buddyprogram.org.


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