Local non-profit Mentor Tutor Connection continues to serve Mountain View and Los Altos students through pandemic

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN AND RODRIGO SEPULVEDA SAGASETA, PHOTO COURTESY MENTOR TUTOR CONNECTION

A wedding or baby shower guest list typically includes parents, neighbors and long-time friends. For some former Mentor Tutor Connection students, their mentors — thanks to their patience, kindness and advice — also make the guest list.

Mentor Tutor Connection is a nonprofit that seeks to “enhance academic and life skills for students” by offering tutoring for kindergarten through eighth grade students in Los Altos and Mountain View school districts and one-on-one mentoring for students in the Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District. 

Tutors either work one-on-one with students in math and language arts in their classrooms, or, through the Reading Fellows program, a more individualized program where they meet with students many times throughout six weeks to help them with their reading ability.

The organization’s mentors work for years to build personal relationships with high school students, many of whom are first generation college bound students.

“The mentoring program pairs a caring adult from the community, an adult who is non-judgemental, who will be there for the student,” said Carol Olson, executive director at Mentor Tutor Connection. “Our mentor program is focused on whatever the student needs or wants.”

Mentors are usually brought in by other people in the organization, but can be just about any experienced adult with a little extra time, a desire to help others and a lot of patience. Mentors go through a careful training and preparation process before being matched with the right student 

Once paired, mentors help their students with school work, time management, college applications and generally are able to guide and share their experience with students.

“Over time, the students trust [the mentors] more and more, open up more and more, and eventually you’re having this huge impact on them because you show up,” said Sally Chaves, president of Mentor Tutor Connection. “You didn’t raise [the student], but they’re just a special person that becomes like family.”

While at first glance it might seem that the organization only serves students, the mentors also benefit mostly by virtue of them being around students, and being able to give back to the community. 

“It’s nice to know I’m helping [my student],” mentor Leslie Micetich said. “She just wants to talk to someone else beside her family. Me too.” 

Micetich has been a mentor since April 2020. Despite having endured the pandemic with her mentee, she still found ways to support her student. She mailed a birthday card, made fudge on a video call and even set up a meeting with a special education teacher, which is her student’s dream job. 

Not all transitions to the pandemic were smooth, as some mentors struggled to figure out how to meet with their mentees online, and everyone was facing some hard times. 

“[The teen’s] lives were turned upside down, they’re feeling isolated, they’re often hit by economic hardships, or they have to take care of their younger siblings who are in class,” Olson said. “They are struggling [to] engage with school, whether it’s tech or having a private place, there are pretty significant stressors.”

It is only now that vaccinations are occurring and restrictions have been lifted in California that mentors will once again be able to meet with and support their students properly. 

“I find it very rewarding,” Jeff Purnell, a mentor said. “[I get to] use my privilege to help others who haven’t had nearly as much privilege as I have had.”

To contact Mentor Tutor Connections, click here.

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