Learning outside the classroom

Gabriel Bellebuono, left, mentored by Barney Zeitz, right, attaches a metal base to a glass bowl as part of his glassworking mentorship. —Gabriel Bellebuono

By Adeline Hayman

When classroom walls prove too small of an environment for learning, some students at the high school step over those walls into real world mentorships or work study programs. With some restrictions, this option is available to juniors and seniors.

Career Technical Education (CTE) Director Barbara-Jean Chauvin, emphasized the responsibility of the student to personally find and contact the persons or organizations that may offer out-of-school learning opportunities. “The school is for the most part pretty hands off in that regard,” said Mrs. Chauvin.

The possibilities of a mentorship are vast. This semester alone the program has students working in elementary school systems, at a fire station, small businesses, preschools, the Oak Bluffs police department, the MV Times, nonprofit organizations, the MV museum, a state representative, and many more.

Senior Kylie Hatt is currently mentoring at the Oak Bluffs School in Mrs. Robinson’s second grade class for three periods every other day. Along with helping students understand what they are learning, Kylie helps answer questions and is on lunch and recess duty. “This mentorship has affected my personality in general. It has made me more patient towards others and more understanding,” said Kylie. “I chose this mentorship because I have always been interested in elementary education and my own teachers who have impacted me the most were all elementary educators.”

Other students are focused on giving back to the community through their mentorships and work studies. “My mentorship is solely dedicated to helping people. From this, it’s hard to have an outcome that is not positively affecting those around me, including myself,” said senior Mary Morano who is working at CONNECT to End Violence, an organization that helps victims of sexual assault. “They provide free counseling to those in need along with any other help they could possibly give. I’ve learned a multitude of things from working with CONNECT. Working beside such kind and genuine people, I’ve developed an appreciation for those that work in such a tough area. Along with that, I’ve been exposed to the coping mechanisms that people go through.”

Mary choose her mentorship to learn more about this organization and what they do. On a regular day, Mary gets to the office in the morning or after leaving school and participates in a range of activities, from going to court to watch a case or watching a movie that relates to what they are learning about at the time in school. “This has affected me in a positive way. I have no idea what I’m planning for a future career, but after learning about such an amazing organization this is definitely one of the considerations.”

As an Oak Bluffs fire station volunteer, senior Sam Robinson said, “This has positively affected me in a huge way. Working with the Oak Bluffs Fire Department, I’ve become a part of a family.”

Sam has learned a lot about different techniques and medicines used in the Emergency Medical field, and has also learned what it’s like to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), by doing things such as patient write-ups, checking on the trucks, and communicating with patients. “I chose this mentorship because I knew that I wanted to be a Firefighter or EMT. My dad has been a firefighter for over 20 years, so I’ve always known I wanted to be one for a while,” said Sam.

The experience of doing a mentorship follows the students after they have graduated from high school. Current first year Bridgewater State University student, Kaitlyn Marchand, reflected on how her high school mentorship helped prepare her for college and her future. Kaitlyn said, “Doing a mentorship better prepared me for life in college because it taught me to try something new even if I wasn’t familiar with it. It prepared me for life after college because it showed me what being a professional would be like and what the job entails.”

Kaitlyn worked with students in the Special Education program at the high school. She said, “The biggest thing I took away was that we are all humans are capable of doing whatever we want to. This mentorship became a huge part of my life and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It made my high school experience a lot better.”

Kindergarten teacher at the Edgartown School Denise Searle has had students mentor in her classroom who were interested in education or being around children. Mrs. Searle said, “I have so enjoyed these experiences as the students come with enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn and help. The classroom students love having a new voice to listen to and a new person whom they can talk to and engage with both in work and play. It is great practice for the children to connect with other adults who are trustworthy and responsible.”