By Ella Dice

My name is Ella Dice and I am the publicity coordinator for the Harwood Union Middle High School mentor program. The program was started last year by Skylar Bradley (known affectionately to the student body as Mr. B.). Since then, the program has nearly tripled in size. High schoolers in grades 11 and 12 apply for the program and when accepted are paired with a Harwood middle school student.

Mentor and mentee pairs spend time together each week doing activities that are mutually beneficial and foster such skills as effective communication, reflection and perspective taking. This year, the program also brought Harwood its first ever homecoming dance on October 15. Spirits were high and excitement was great as students from grades nine through 12 enjoyed the firepit, yummy snacks and dancing.  

There are so many things I wish I knew in middle school and so many pieces of advice I would give my younger self. The mentor program allows just that -- the opportunity for mentors to guide mentees through their middle school experience and help them have a positive transition into high school.

When I first signed up for the mentor program, I thought I would just be helping middle schoolers but in reality they ended up helping me much more than I could have ever imagined. It is so incredible to be able to apply the skills I have learned throughout high school and use them to give advice and perspective. 

Whether it's middle school drama or deeper societal issues, I am able to use emotional intelligence, empathy, communication, positivity, and encouragement to guide my mentee through good and challenging times. Mentoring gave me an outlet from all the stress of high school and allowed me to make an extraordinary connection.

Whether my mentee and I were doing an art project or just talking, mentoring is always fulfilling. This program has taught me what it feels like to be a part of something bigger than myself. It truly is a one-of-a-kind experience. I'm so fortunate to be a part of it.

Dice is a senior at Harwood and is from Waterbury.