Our guest blogger of the week is Priyanka Kumar, a college mentor and recently selected SWSG Chapter Director from Tufts University who mentored this past year at St. Joseph’s School in Medford, Massachusetts, a neighbor city of Boston. Priyanka tells the story of how SWSG Junior Mentor Chloe sent a letter to Medford’s Mayor Stephanie Burke, which led to a very special visit from Mayor Burke herself to an SWSG session at St. Joe’s in March 2017. St. Joe’s has been a strong partner with SWSG over the years – teacher and SWSG Site Facilitator Deirdre Foley, who hosts the SWSG program there, won SWSG Boston’s Above and Beyond Site Facilitator Awards for 2017!
No two mentoring sessions are alike – any mentor can tell you this – whether you’ve been at the same site for multiple semesters, or you’re working with these set of students for the first time. Some mentoring sessions, though, are truly something else: Days when the girls take our sessions to the next level, and they make something remarkable happen. That was what it was like for me, as a mentor, when Chloe, our Junior Mentor at St. Joe’s, wrote to Mayor Burke of Medford resulting in the mayor visiting our site, and spending an afternoon with us. (Junior Mentors are middle school-aged girl alumnae of SWSG’s core program who stay involved as near-peer mentors, helping to lead programming for the elementary-aged girls alongside the college mentors.)
The most incredible thing about the whole experience was that we not only interacted with Mayor Burke that afternoon, we also met Stephanie Burke, who sat down on the ground with us, during our check in of roses and thorns, and joined in the skits the girls performed for us, as a part of the activities for the day. She even joined in the SWSG cheer that wraps up our weekly mentoring sessions! Having read Chloe’s letter about how much she loved SWSG, Mayor Burke wanted to experience the afternoon like the rest of us did, and the girls loved it.
Towards the end of the session, the students got to sit down with Mayor Burke to both ask her questions about, and posit their own suggestions for, what they wanted Medford, as a city and community, to be. From more community parks, to swimming pools, to animal shelters, our girls painted a picture of their ideal Medford, and Mayor Burke, gracefully, and meaningfully, engaged with every suggestion they had.
Part of the curriculum for SWSG includes having a biography of a strong, accomplished woman who can serve as an example for the girls. Having Mayor Burke with us that afternoon was like having someone who could be featured in the bios with us in real life, who the girls could interact with and more importantly who wanted to interact with the girls too.
We ended the session with a gift from Mayor Burke to all of us – mentors and kids alike – our choice of either a red or white rose. It was the perfect end to a wonderful afternoon.