Friday, March 28, 2008

Muraco school mentor program -Friday, March 28th, 2008
‘They came in with open minds and they wanted to learn’
By Pamela Woo/Special to the Star
Mon Mar 24, 2008, 02:34 PM EDT
Winchester, MA - Touching the lives of children and being there as role models for them — this is what makes the Muraco community so strong.
Last Thursday, students at Muraco celebrated “An Evening of Sharing” that culminated Muraco’s Mentor Program. The program kicked off in January, when approximately 80 fourth and fifth-graders chose to be matched with mentors from diverse roles such as astronomer, clay sculptor, computer specialist, veterinarian, sports writer, figure skater, inventor, cartoonist, fire fighter, and reptile specialist.
The Muraco Mentor Committee, headed by Juli Riemenschneider, Susan Gill and myself, relied on previous years’ mentor volunteers, parents, teachers, and places within the local community to lend a helping hand.
The students met with their mentors over the course of approximately three sessions. In some cases, such as clay sculpting, fourth-graders Josh Ku and Alex Tham met with their mentor Bob Shure, who is a renowned clay sculptor, more than a dozen times at his studio Skylight Studios in Woburn.
Ku and Tham were thrilled to work in a real studio, but Shure was equally as enthused.
“This program gives mentors a new perspective, a fresh idea of what they’re doing. I loved doing it,” added Shure.
Patrick Gill, Isabella Costa and Jonathan Santoro traveled to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to meet with astronomers, Dr. Meredith Hughes and Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger. Hughes said that the children asked wonderful questions.
“I liked their curiosity about the subject,” Hughes said. “They came in with open minds and they wanted to learn.”
Fourth graders Ian Pylkkanen and Owen Ulicny wanted to sharpen their skills in baseball, and were matched with Brian Brazell, owner of Woburn’s Extra Innings.
“He taught me about the six points of hitting, and the lifestyle of playing baseball, such as eating healthy, getting sleep and thinking strong,” Ulicny said.
According to Brazell, “This was a fantastic program and good for the community. The kids asked great questions. I don’t remember being that smart as a fourth-grader.”
Rebecca Carazza, a Muraco mom and chemist, mentored fourth-graders John May and Jude Macannuco. A volunteer for the past three years, Carazza believes that it is great to make this program available to children as young as fourth grade.
“Others wait until college to figure out what they want to do. The exposure at such a young age is priceless,” she said.
This was the first time that Muraco students chose origami making, and the mother of 9-year-old Edward Tu was extremely pleased with the quality of the program.
Aside from teaching her son how to fold origami, Winchester resident, Shukong Ou, took her son to an Origami exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum. According to Ou, “This is a continuous mutual learning environment — every time I teach the kids something, they come back and show me some things that are pretty amazing, that I never thought about myself.”
Muraco fourth grade teachers Kim Burke and Jan Serieka came to observe the creative displays and presentations of their students.
Serieka added, “It is just the absolute best hands-on learning experience. It’s authentic, it’s their own choice, and this really brings the community together.”
Taking the honors for best dressed during the evening were fourth-graders Emma Kapp, Mikayla Gibbons, and Kai-Kai MacLean. With the help of mentor Marney Grimes, the students proudly wore their own hand-made creative outfits. Grimes also helps create the costumes each year for the Winchester Cooperative Theatre, and is a great testament to the fact that mentors volunteer during their busy schedules. Gibbons, 10, said that the best part of the program was that “[Grimes] was really so nice and supportive.”
“We have been quite lucky that we live in a place that has such exceptional people who are willing to encourage a child,” Riemenschneider said.
The Evening of Sharing was a great celebration and a wonderful tribute to the importance of encouraging and supporting the children in our community. What was so special about the evening was that the experiences were so positive, a mutually rewarding experience for both the mentors and the students.
Editor’s Note: Pamela Woo, of Churchill Circle, is in charge of publicity for the Muraco School and a member of the Muraco Mentor Committee.

No comments: