KENT, Wash., Mar. 15, 2013–Yesterday I had the privilege of tagging along while 10 of the Seattle Thunderbirds mentored 10 fourth grade boys at Neely O’Brien Elementary School in Kent. Thursday’s mentoring session was the final in a six-month series of weekly meetings between the TBirds and “their boys.” While enjoying pizza and homemade treats, the TBirds reminisced about their activities including a visit to ShoWare, play board games and bonding with the students, and hosting two assemblies, one for fifth and sixth graders about about goal setting and a school-wide assembly on how to be a buddy, not a bully.
TBirds mentors this year were Connor Sanvido, Mitch Elliot, Connor Honey, Evan Wardley, Luke Lockhart, Justin Hickman, Seth Swenson, Roberts Lipsbergs, Alexander Delnov and Adam Kambeitz. Pictured at right: C.J., Seth Swenson, Justin Hickman and Cody.
Principal Pat Regnart thanked the players for their participation in the mentoring program, offered through Communities in Schools Kent. CISK has other mentors at Neely O’Brien and other elementary schools throughout the Kent School District, but this program was a bit different because the mentors were young adults.
“It’s been a very special year, and we don’t take that for granted,” Regnart said. “Our whole school has been impacted.”
Though the school has 733 students, only 10 boys were given the opportunity to work one-on-one with the TBirds, to build relationships and talk about things like the importance of education and how being a member of a team is much like being a student.
Regnart particularly enjoyed the mentoring session when Mitch Elliot gave an impromptu piano recital. Elliot played Beethoven, a composer that had been discussed in the second grade classes. Following his performance, a student asked, “Don’t you fight in hockey?” Elliot explained that there is fighting in hockey but that it has to be done safely and responsibly. He also said that the fights stay on the ice, and he’d get kicked off the team if he fought outside the rink.
“The players connected in a lot of ways,” Regnart explained.
Jolene Wallace, a second grade teacher whose students were impacted by the mentoring program, wasn’t able to attend the mentoring celebration yesterday, but she sent a letter to be read by Neely O’Brien mentor program coordinator Chris Kunzelman in her absence.
“I can’t begin to describe the impact you’ve had on these boys, our students, staff and the community,” Wallace wrote. “As you move into your future whether in college or the NHL, please note that you made a difference in a public school in Kent, Washington.”
The players enjoyed the mentoring program as well. Seth Swenson of Colorado said he enjoyed being able to give back to the community. It was particularly nice for him because he lives out of state and doesn’t know a lot of people in Kent. Swenson mentored fourth grader C.J. who said he liked visiting the hockey rink the best.
Justin Hickman also enjoyed being a part of the program. Hickman, who previously attended Kent-Meridian High School, said he liked visiting other schools and to “hopefully make a difference. Hickman mentored fourth grader Cody; one of their favorite activities was playing Connect Four.
“I’m the Connect Four Master,” Hickman joked.
Dee Klem, the elementary mentor program coordinator for Communities in Schools Kent, helped connect the TBirds with Neely O’Brien. As a proponent of mentoring and a billet mom to Mitch Elliot, Klem was pleased at the enthusiasm of the players and the success of this year’s program. This is the third year for the program, but the first time so many players participated, Klem said.
Klem added, “I’m not sure they fully understand the impact they’ve had on the kids.”
For more information about the mentoring program, visit Communities in Schools Kent online. For more information about the Seattle Thunderbirds, visit the team website.
Pictured below: Dee Klem and Luke Lockhart