Mentor Program at Windermere Boulevard School

Underwritten by the Office of Children and Family Services in New York State and supported by the staff of the Collaborative Research Initiative Office at the Center for Development of Human Services (a program of the Research Foundation for SUNY at Buffalo State), our Mentor Program recruits Buffalo State students to support teachers and work directly as mentors to youth through placement in school classrooms.

The Collaborative Research Initiative Office began the Mentor Program 14 years ago at the former Grover Cleveland High School in Buffalo, New York. For the last three years, the program has been run in collaboration with the Amherst, New York school district. While Amherst is a largely affluent suburb of Buffalo, the district includes students from a large subsidized housing development, many of whom attend the adjacent Windermere Boulevard School in their elementary years. These students are from families that live in poverty and are often confronted with issues more typical of poor, urban youth than their suburban peers. Windermere hosts a diverse student body of about 750 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Over 30 different languages are represented at the school, and there is a portion of the students who are refugees. The strengths and needs of this student body were similar to those at Grover Cleveland High School where the Mentor Program started, so it seemed a natural fit for the Mentor Program to move to the Amherst district, and Windermere particularly, when Grover Cleveland High School was closed.

Gail Daniels
Gail Daniels

The Mentor Program meets several needs for these students, as well as for the Buffalo State campus and for the Center. Buffalo State students in the program create journals of their experiences with children in the classroom. Gail Daniels, Director of the Collaborative Research Initiative Office, states that the goal of these journals is to “capture the reality of issues that youth today are dealing with.” These issues often come to light in casual conversation between the mentor and the child and may relate to issues within the home, school, or neighborhood, such as bullying or peer-pressure. The journals from Buffalo State students are turned in biweekly to Daniels’ office. Youth issues are then extracted by assigned faculty partners, who in turn create case scenarios based on these entries. The case scenarios are passed on to instructional designers at the Center for use in the Office of Children and Family Services’ child welfare training programs where they contribute to credible reflection of the struggles young people in our society face.

The Mentor Program at Windermere provides multiple benefits, as youth are better supported with individual attention in their classrooms from the mentors, and teachers at Windermere have an extra set of hands and eyes in the classroom. The Buffalo State students (who are selected from various departments on campus, such as Elementary Education, Exceptional Education, Social Work, and English) receive hands-on practical experience with children and the education system. Jon, a Buffalo State student and a mentor at Windermere, says: “I am attending college to become an educator and the Mentor Program is giving me an opportunity to learn in the field. The experience I am receiving through this program is invaluable, but the true enjoyment in the job is in working with the children.”

Daniels notes that “students get very attached to mentors like Jon and it is hard for the kids when the mentors move on.” Teachers and students often say good-bye with small classroom parties. She also states that test scores “have skyrocketed when there are mentors in the classroom.”

Julie Flanagan
Julie Flanagan

The administration and faculty at Windermere have been very supportive of the program as well. Julie Flanagan, the principal at Windermere, states: “The Center for Development of Human Services Mentor Program has been a huge success at Windermere. Teachers enjoy working with the well-trained mentors and the staff at the Center’s Collaborative Research Initiative Office. Everyone is professional, courteous, and helpful. The mentors have become great role models for our students and an extra support to our teachers. This partnership has impacted our school and our students in a very positive way!”

The Center looks forward to continuing this successful community collaboration for years to come.

Learn more about the Collaborative Research Initiative Office.