Chea Waters Evans
Bunny yoga is a thing that exists. Yes, yoga with rabbits. And not too long ago, a Connecting Youth mentor and mentee pair from Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) got to experience some lapin Zen together. Now in its fourth year, the CY-CVU mentoring program is connecting students and community members in new ways, fostering a relationship that reaches much further than the school walls. The program is in need of adults who are willing to spend time with a high school student on terms that make sense to both the mentor and the mentee.
Krista Sisson is the CY Mentoring coordinator and LINK Crew coordinator at CVU—her job is to help kids connect to adults and other students. CY Mentoring was historically at elementary schools across the district (the Champlain Valley School District oversees the program), with students and their community mentors meeting at school for an hour a week.
Sisson said that the high school program is much more flexible, which means that kids and adults can forge a bond that is meaningful as well as practical. “It’s the next stage of the relationship,” Sisson said, noting that most pairs have continued their visits since the student was in middle school.
“We have these amazing people who have so much to offer to potential mentees, to the school. And that’s what I love. It’s building that connection between community and CVU.”
Mentor pairs in high school have the flexibility to have more fun and try new things together—in addition to bunny yoga, they’ve attended Lake Monsters baseball games and CVU Access classes, which they’re allowed to take together for free. Instead of being limited to an hour a week during the school day, pairs can meet when it’s convenient for them, which means that even if it’s for several hours on a hike just once every few weeks, the relationship is meaningful on its own terms.
High school students are not typically known for excessively communicating with adults, and Sisson said that text and email connections are just as important for these mentors and mentees, providing a consistency that connects them even though they might not see each other weekly.
There are currently 35 mentoring pairs at CVU, five of which are from Charlotte, and Sisson said there is a wait list of 15 students who are waiting for a mentor. She said she takes care to place the students with someone who’s going to work for them long term, with the hopes of continuing the relationship throughout their high school careers.
In order to be a mentor, volunteers need to commit to at least a year with their student, meet with the student for a minimum of four hours a month, clear a background and DMV check, have current car insurance and be at least 21 years old.
Though the mentor program exists to help students, Sisson said that mentors benefit immensely from the connection as well. CVSD surveyed participants in the CY program, and reported that “100 percent of mentees agree or strongly agree that having a mentor has made a difference in their life,” and that “100 percent of mentors agree or strongly agree that they would recommend being a mentor to a friend, family member, or colleague.”
Anyone who’s interested in becoming a mentor can email Sisson.