Larry Selnick is not a teacher, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Connecticut in early March, he was distressed that he would no longer see his student anymore.
For Selnick, mentoring means much more to him than just weekly check-ins.
“I get so much out of mentoring, as does the mentee,” Selnick explained. “It really helps with everything, from self-confidence to accountability, in both me and the mentee. It’s an incredibly special relationship and one that I am so proud to cultivate.”
Selnick mentors students at Cheshire’s Chapman Elementary School in everything from homework to life skills, and he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“It takes a really special person to be able to do this kind of job,” explained Selnick. “You need to be someone the kids can count on, and someone they can respect as well.”
Selnick works full time at Webster Bank, and his job has allowed him to participate in the state’s Governor’s Prevention Partnership program. The organization helps to build safe and supportive environments for students that is designed to help prevent them from turning to alcohol and other drugs. Mentorship is a major part of the program and it connect students with adults who can help them navigate the world around them.
“Mentoring is a movement in our country,” said the Governor’s Prevention Program Co-President and Chief Program and Administrative Officer, Roland Harmon. “… We want mentoring to be a prevention strategy, and Webster Bank has been an amazing partner in the process. We want to create a strong, bonded relationship between our mentors and mentees; we want them to have those important guided conversations with young people about their lives.”
Chapman Elementary School has been in partnership with Webster Bank for the past 18 years, fostering valuable relationships between students and adults while teaching them the importance of drug and alcohol abuse prevention.
“These kids are so important to the world, and to me,” added Selnick. “If I can make a difference in their lives … That’s what we are working towards.”
“Children really need consistent adult role models in their lives,” continued Chapman’s Principal, Diana Burns. “I couldn’t imagine us not having the mentorship program. It’s just so important to Chapman and everyone involved.”
Over the years, the program has expanded at Chapman, thanks to Selnick’s dedication and outreach, which has created a special family atmosphere at the school.
“The mentors are such a huge part of our Chapman community,” said Burns. “We don’t know what we would do with out them.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Connecticut, many mentorship programs had to cease operations almost immediately, without providing any real closure for those involved.
“When the pandemic hit, I realized I never got a chance to say goodbye to my mentee,” recalled Selnick. “But, luckily enough, my mentee wanted to continue to meet virtually every week, so after a brief conversation with their mother we were able to set that up.”
The adjustment has not only been a challenge for mentors and mentees, but the program itself has also undergone a massive shift due to the pandemic.
“Mentoring was built for one-to-one interactions,” said Harmon. “The pandemic really required us to shift gears, and shift gears fast. We have to navigate all the dangers of the online world now in addition to making sure there is a community of safety and support which surrounds each child involved.”
Until the official end of the school year, Selnick continued to meet weekly with his mentee, something he is grateful for.
“The kids are going through so much right now. So much of their life has changed,” Selnick added. “They need some consistency.”
Learn more about the Governor’s Prevention Partnership program online at https://www.preventionworksct.org/.