Students at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School had a surprise guest last month: Matilda Cuomo — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mother and the wife of former governor Mario Cuomo.
Cuomo stopped by the Schenectady school as part of a larger tour across the state to promote the renewal of a mentoring program slated to launch at select schools in January and ramp up to a presence in most of New York’s 62 counties over the next three years.
Andrew Cuomo announced the New York Youth Mentoring Program earlier this year, mirroring an initiative his mom led from 1987 to 1995 that created a system to solicit, train and support mentors in their work with students.
When the program begins in full force next year, King Magnet School will be one of the schools leading the way.
During her visit to Schenectady, Cuomo was especially impressed by one King student’s summation of what mentoring was all about, Schenectady Superintendent Laurence Spring told the school board recently.
“ ‘Mentoring is something that makes your future better,’ ” Spring said, recalling the student’s comments.
Spring said mentors can play an important role in reaching students that “fall in the middle” between students receiving focused attention from therapists and school psychologists, and students with lots of support at home.
“We don’t wants kids with three or four really positive adults in their life to have a fifth, when we have this other kid who might get lost in the middle,” Spring said.
While Spring said the district already has mentors who help students work through college applications or volunteer to fill other needs, the state program will provide training for the mentors the district couldn’t afford on its own.
Organizers have “laid the groundwork” to have mentors ready to go next month at King, Giffen Elementary and Sheridan Prep in Albany, and Carroll Hill School in Troy, according to the governor’s offi ce. Programs will also launch in other regions of the state.
Melinda Sanderson, the program’s upstate director, said program organizers have worked with superintendents to identify schools that could most benefi t from a mentoring presence. They are also working with businesses to get commitments to allow employees to devote an hour each week to working one-on-one with students.
In the Capital Region, SEFCU has already committed mentors to the program. The schools are starting with about 10 or 12 mentors, who will focus on helping students develop fundamental skills: considering long-term consequences, setting goals, developing and implementing plans, and more.
“It’s not a reading program. It’s not a tutoring program,” Sanderson said. “It’s more about life skills.”
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