Youth & Family Services awards volunteers

Youth & Family Services volunteers posed for a group photo after the awards were handed out.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

On Thursday night inside of Needham Town Hall, Needham Youth & Family Services held its Senior Awards Ceremony to honor its over 25 peer tutors and VIP mentors.

The peer tutor program is the more academic-based of the two. It matches high school students with middle school and elementary school kids who are looking for academic support or assistance. One of the unique aspects of the program (as opposed to a commercial learning center or a private adult tutor) is the students helping students aspect, which the program hopes will end in “better grades and improved self-esteem for both the tutee and tutor.”

The VIP (Valuable Interactions Among Peers) Mentoring program matches a Needham High student with a third to fifth grader. The “Big VIP” and “Little VIP” meet once a week to “play games, participate in activities, share stories and talk with one another.”

Before the awards (which included cupcakes inside of Chinese food boxes) were handed out, Vice Principal Keith Ford spoke, emphasizing that with the seniors being “students, athletes, club members and employees,” it was so impressive that they still found the time to volunteer with the two programs. “The kids will always remember the time you spent with them,” he told the seniors, “so kudos to you guys.”

Vice Principal Keith Ford singled out the seniors that had spent four years in the program with individual words of appreciation.

Vice Principal Keith Ford singled out the seniors that had spent four years in the program with individual words of appreciation.

Ford introduced each of the students that had been peer tutors for four years, giving a little insight into both the work they did with the children and the seniors’ academic and extracurricular lives. The Needham seniors that had devoted all four years of their time were Benjamin Glanz, Rachel Horrigan, Lizzy Mesnik and Benjamin Shapiro.

“It’s been very rewarding to work with a student throughout middle school and see the progress he has made,” Shapiro noted, while addressing the difficulties middle school kids tend to have with organizational skills.

While the seniors are wrapping up their high school years and the VIP mentors already celebrated a special last day with their “Littles,” the work for the peer mentors isn’t done yet.

They will work a little further into May, to help their tutees get ready for finals.

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