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ESBOCES Launches Student-Staff Mentoring Program

ESBOCES Launches Student-Staff Mentoring Program

Agency partners with NYS Mentoring Program to train participants


Eastern Suffolk BOCES announces the inauguration of its first student-staff mentoring program. This new endeavor will pair non-instructional staff with middle school students from one of the agency’s satellite locations within Oregon Middle School in Medford. These students may have learning disabilities and other behaviors that can benefit from the program.

The goal is to support students with role models who can help them gain additional skills and offer social-emotional support. “This program will provide our students with one more adult in their lives who can bolster them – aside from their teachers, counselors or parents – so they can acquire even more tools for their toolboxes as they grow and move into high school,” explained Gina Reilly, ESBOCES director of special education.

All mentors volunteered for the opportunity and receive training through the state. Said Diane Urso, director of the Long Island/Queens branch of the NYS Mentoring Program, “The big tenents of mentoring are relationship building and active listening. Being a good listener is not an innate personality trait. It’s a skill.” Students and mentors meet twice a month at the ESBOCES Hines Administration Center in Patchogue.

Another benefit of mentoring involves what the staff gains from their commitment. Mentoring creates a community environment where participants feel heard and valued and learn to lean into one another as they share successes and ways to work around challenges.

Going forward, April Francis, director of DEI at ESBOCES, and Reilly, who both spearheaded this venture, may develop a program that pairs older and younger students or expand it to include additional ESBOCES schools.

Said Francis, “We are a large agency that employs a lot of staff who don’t work in our instructional buildings. This program creates the opportunity for them to form connections with students, allowing those employees to see how their daily roles benefit our students.”