Pilot of Klainer Center mentoring program successful

As part of the Klainer Center for Women and Business and the ATHENA program in Canandaigua, N.Y., six Geneseo students have begun a mentoring program to benefit the sixth-grade girls at Geneseo Middle School.

Established five years ago, the Klainer Center works very closely with the ATHENA program of honored and distinguished women of Canandaigua. ATHENA had found it problematic that sixth-grade girls were extraordinarily quiet and were not as outgoing in school compared to other middle-schoolers. Rebecca Schwartz, senior and one of the two student coordinators of the Klainer Center, brainstormed with members of the Klainer Center to develop the mentoring program.

Schwartz's efforts have been successfully brought to fruition. The program is now a 10-week program that has six Geneseo students mentoring about 16 of the 25 sixth-grade girls at Geneseo Middle School every Friday afternoon.

Each week focuses on a different personal strength including courage, leadership, team building and trust. "[The girls] are so enthusiastic being there," Schwartz said. "I was nervous because I haven't worked with kids that young in a while. They're really little girls and they're so eager to be talking to our students to see what they could be doing. They're big talkers; it's a really nice experience."

Many of the Geneseo mentors are not education majors, so having the opportunity of going into a middle school definitely provides a welcome change to their typical schedules. "It's a nice part of our week," Schwartz said. "We go over [to the middle school] and we deal with all these people who are so enthusiastic with what they're doing. The energy they have translates with the mentors in the program. It's nice to know you're potentially really affecting them."

Kristine Szalkowski, junior and mentor, also said that she likes how she's helping to benefit these girls. "The ability to work with young girls who are so similar to how I was at their age is very rewarding. I want to inspire these girls to be great and not follow the whole 'Gossip Girl,' high school hierarchy," she said.

Senior Anita Lau, another mentor, said that one of her favorite parts of the program is having the girls participate in the mentors' activities. "The activities bring out a lot of their personality, and it's always great to hear what kids have to say," she said.

Lau also noted that Schwartz did a great job getting the program started and allowing all of the mentors to have an input in piloting the program.

With Schwartz's guidance, Szalkowski will continue the program next year.