Passion there but economy squeezes ability to give
NO SUBSTITUTE FOR TIME: Gail Gavin is given about 90 minutes each week from Citizens Bank to volunteer as a mentor at Winman Junior High School in Warwick, helping students with anything from homework to clothes choices.
At 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday mornings, Citizens Bank Equity Analyst Gail Gavin is in the cafeteria at Winman Junior High School in Warwick having a morning snack and chatting about homework or clothes or maybe boys with three 8th grade girls. Some mornings they play games. It looks like, and is, a casual get-together – but it’s also much more.
Gavin has been a volunteer mentor with the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership for 15 years, and she has mentored these three girls as a group for the last two years.
“It’s kind of like a breakfast club. We eat and socialize. There is a focus on literacy, but we don’t want to make it just about homework, because then the students might not want to come,” said Gavin, who coordinates eight mentors who offer their time, support and encouragement to a dozen students at Winman. All the students have permission from a parent or guardian to be in the mentoring program.
“Over time, you establish a relationship,” said Gavin. “We have more students at Winman who need mentors at the moment than we have mentors, so some are in a small group. But if I see one of the girls needs to talk, I just suggest that we take a walk.”
The confidential conversations sometimes turn toward what’s going on at home. One thing Gavin has found is that many more students are being raised by grandparents than used to be the case. Sometimes school work is on the student’s mind.
“Gail is really nice, and if you have a problem she’ll help you solve them,” said one member of Gavin’s trio, 14-year-old Destiny Irby-Whitford, in a conversation at the school with Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership staff member Marc Mainville, who got approval from the student’s family to provide the comments to Providence Business News.
“We play games and it’s really fun,” said Irby-Whitford.
But it’s not all fun and games and Irby-Whitford appreciates that. Gavin has helped her get more comfortable speaking in class.