Mentors Build Girls' Self Esteem
Reflections from mentor and high school senior Hillary Maxwell. Hillary is a member of many clubs and enjoys reading and hanging out with friends in her free time. Hillary joined Girls 4 Girls her sophomore year and has been involved ever since. Hillary wrote and published this article in 2022 during her time in the Masco Media and Communications class.
Girls4Girls is a mentoring program connecting Tri-Town teens in grades 10-12 with elementary school girls in grades 5-6. G4G meetings take place at Howe Manning, Proctor, and Spofford Pond schools, and are planned and led by Tri Town Council staff along with participating elementary teachers and mentors.
In-person Girls4Girls meetings allow for deeper bonds between mentees and mentors. Girls4Girls has resumed these in-person meetings this year, and they have just set up their mentee-mentor pairs. Some of these pairs have been working together for the past two years. This is the case for junior Madeline Wayland, who said, “It has been so much easier to make a connection with the mentees than last year. I actually get to have conversations without the internet getting messed up, so I have gotten to know my mentee so much better this year.”
Girls4Girls (G4G) is all about forming a connection, hence the one-on-one pairs that encourage conversation and friendship. Executive Director of Tri-Town Council Meredith Shaw said, “So much of health and well-being is about connection --- it’s something we all need as humans, and the G4G program offers those opportunities to connect with others.”
This is especially important after last year when adolescents felt isolated from their peers and teachers. These meetings also provide relief - for both the elementary school students and the high school students - from the stress of school and other commitments.
“The environment is so supportive, safe, and welcoming,” said Wayland. This environment is what allows mentees and mentors to navigate the ups and downs of adolescence together.
Junior Hannah Mcmillan said, “Despite the age gap, we have found many common interests and have similar senses of humor. Honestly, I feel like I am still their age sometimes.”
Being paired with a mentee is a way to support younger girls, but Youth Program Director of Tri Town Council Dawn Seymour said working with youth also helps the mentors grow. “Being an effective mentor in practice requires patience, kindness, good listening skills, leadership skills, a positive outlook, and strong teaching skills,” said Seymour. These are empowering skills for high school students to build. The mentors are asked to plan and run one or two meetings throughout the program year with a partner mentor. "There is a lot to consider in planning for a meeting,” said Shaw. “Not only do the mentors have to think about which games and activities would be interesting and fun for the group, but they also plan the timing of the activities, the materials and facilitate the meeting too.” These responsibilities benefit both the mentors and the mentees. "All of the girls gain some insight about themselves, their internal and external worlds, and the power of laughter, fun, and connection,” said Shaw.
The learning and insightfulness inspire the club's success and deeper connections within the community. "Mentees finish the program with a sense that they have an older girl they can rely on and feel a bit more comfortable moving on to middle school,” said Seymour. This success is rooted in the environment and goals of the club, but teamwork is its driving force.
“The program's success depends on the commitment of the mentors, teacher partners, and Tri-Town Council staff,” said Seymour.
In the end, this commitment is worthwhile because of the rewarding relationships.
Mcmillan said, “Girls4Girls has created a tight-knit and special community.” This tight-knit community is strong because of activities planned by mentors. Junior Tess Thattacherry said, “The one-on-one activities are what really help with establishing a relationship with the mentees. Having something to do with your hands makes it easier to carry a conversation and it is nice to bring something back from the meeting.”
Mentors urge other high school girls to join because of the fun environment and lasting relationships made with mentees. Mentees and mentors alike are excited to create memories together this year.