“It’s about the relationships”: BCPS mentor facilitator discusses importance, future of mentoring

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Teacher Da’Nall Wilmer and some of the boys he mentors at Randallstown Elementary School through a project called “Boys in the Good.”

For years, Baltimore County Public Schools has supported strong mentoring programs at schools such as Randallstown Elementary, Loch Raven Technical Academy, and Eastern Technical High. But, last year, BCPS decided to expand those programs countywide. To help, Marcus Wimberly, former Grade 4 teacher at Halstead Academy of Art and Science, stepped up to the task. Serving as the BCPS mentor facilitator since September 2015, Wimberly has been bringing new attention and focus to BCPS mentoring programs. In the interview below, Wimberly speaks with Blake Lubinski of the Department of Communications and Community Outreach about his work during the last 10 months and shares his thoughts about the importance and future of mentoring at BCPS.

Blake Lubinski: How do you define mentoring?

Marcus Wimberly: Mentoring is a positive, meaningful relationship between someone who’s usually younger, like a student, and a trusted adult. The adult provides the student with guidance, focusing on academic, social, and emotional growth.

BL: How are you helping BCPS as its mentor facilitator?

MW: We’re looking to see what schools have mentoring programs and sharing best practices between them. We’re also defining what exactly mentoring looks like for BCPS. There are a variety of options, so we’re creating a framework that schools can adapt to support their progress plans. We want to have clearly defined goals for mentoring, find people who want to become mentors, and share what’s already happening with mentoring in Baltimore County.

BL: What kinds of mentoring programs does BCPS currently have?

MW: We have a few types. We have one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, and a combination of group mentoring where the students also have individual mentors. Our mentoring programs reach elementary, middle, and high schools, and students even participate in peer mentoring. In high schools, some of the upperclassmen mentor freshmen, especially at the beginning of the school year when they’re still getting familiar with their new schools. For schools in close proximity, there is cross mentoring occurring, where high school students go to elementary schools to mentor our younger students.

BL: What plans do you have for strengthening mentoring programs during the 2016-2017 school year?

MW: We want mentoring to be as available as it can be to students and schools that want to start programs. A lot of schools already have strong mentoring programs, and our hope is to share the resources they have with other schools.

Another exciting mentoring initiative is being led by Dr. Dance himself and will be launched for the 2016-2017 school year! I am excited about this one in particular because it shows the priority BCPS places on student support, how important mentoring is, and the lasting impact it has on students.

We also plan to continue to collaborate with teachers and other members of Team BCPS to spread the word about mentoring in general and to help build more structured mentoring programs. We want to reach out to the community to recruit mentors from colleges and local businesses.

An additional priority is to share the impact that mentoring has on students. As we expand and grow, we’re constantly reassessing to see where we can make mentoring better and more meaningful.

BL: What do you think makes mentoring so important?

MW: I think it’s about the relationships. You’re creating a relationship with a student that’s completely based on trust. You’re not there to judge but to support and advise the student as he or she is moving forward in life. You share your knowledge and experiences so the student can have a better understanding of the future, what he or she can expect, and how to achieve his or her goals. And that’s the other thing: It’s about the relationships, but it’s also about how they last over time.

And mentoring works both ways. A lot of the time, mentors tell me they get more out of the experiences than the mentees do. A big thing you do in mentoring is goal-setting, so you feel a lot of pride when your student achieves a goal he or she had. You also develop empathy for the struggles our students are facing. If something’s going on in a student’s life, and maybe it’s hard for him or her to talk to family or someone at school, a mentor might be able to help by understanding what the student is going through.

BL: What do you want others to know about mentoring at BCPS?

MW: There is a lot of mentoring occurring, and it’s extremely exciting. However, we want to continue to grow our mentoring services. If you have any inkling – any desire to get involved – and can be committed, it can be done.

BL: As you look ahead to the future, is there anything else you’d like to say about mentoring at BCPS?

MW: It’s a very exciting time. I’m so excited to be in the position to grow such an important service to our kids. We’re creating something for our kids that they can benefit from down the line, and if we can continue the cycle after they graduate, having the mentees come back as mentors, that’d be one of the best things I can imagine happening to this.

Mentoring is an easy, yet powerful, way to have a positive impact on a young person’s life. If you are part of a school with a structured mentoring program and want to share resources, a school hoping to start a new mentoring program, or someone looking for a way to support BCPS students, contact Marcus Wimberly at mwimberly@bcps.org or 443-809-3971.

Story by Blake Lubinski, Department of Communications and Community Outreach.

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