President Dave Wolk led the Class of 2027 from Castleton Elementary down the stairs in the Fine Arts Center while pomp and circumstance played in the background.
It was April 12, and Wolk was the keynote speaker where the theme of his speech was making a difference. “Learning a living versus earning a living,” Wolk said.
Every April, the Castleton Mentor Program celebrate the fifth graders as they “graduate” and move up to the middle school in the fall. Katharine Spaulding and Ashley Haggerty oversee the program while the student leaders include seniors Kristi Lawless, Luke Quesnell, Lizz Havens, and juniors Louis Alhage, Ally Brandland and Rudy Vadakin.
The goal of the mentoring program is to plant the seed for college at a young age, in part by pairing fourth and fifth graders with Castleton University students. The program has become very popular within the last couple of years and this year they had to expand it. Over 90 Castleton students were mentors this year.
“We had so many mentors sign up that we actually created the third grade lunch buddies program,” said Spaulding.
“The popularity of the program is growing so hopefully we’ll get as many mentors next year,” said Quesnell.
Principal of Castleton Elementary Kathleen Cotton has finished her second year with the mentoring program, but participated in it at her last school. “This particular program is very fluid and continues to grow, but the collaboration between Castleton University and us is very strong,” said Cotton.
“The next step is for students to really reflect and help them understand how much it’s helping them. I want them to be aware of what they’re sharing and that it’s a reciprocal relationship between mentor and mentee,” Cotton said.
Mentor and mentee duo Grace Manozzi and Harper Cowden had a really fun year. The two met at one of the school’s plays a few days before mentoring kickoff.
“I was excited that Grace was my mentor and was glad I got to have a mentor last year and this year,” said Cowden, the fifth grader.
“I loved Chess Club! I think Chess Club was one of my favorite hobbies of ours this school year. She would always win,” Manozzi said.
Lawless has been a part of the program for all four years at Castleton.
“I’m going to miss it, and I think this year went well because we had a good commitment from people so there weren’t really any problems,” she said.
Mentors are all in agreement that the year has been a success. Junior Kayla Wood said, “It was a worthwhile experience.”
Junior Emma Blaiklock said, “It’s a chance for not only university students to make a difference to kids, but the kids change and enhance our lives.”
“It was an excellent experience and new bonds were created,” said senior Smith Donelon.
Senior Ruby Bushey summed it up saying, “It’s the most intrinsic reward. I love seeing the kids and laughing with them.”