BENNINGTON -- Students from the Maple Street School in Manchester were paired up with members of Southern Vermont College's men's basketball team Tuesday afternoon, marking the start of what will be an ongoing mentoring program between the two institutions.
According to Maple Street School math teacher and program coordinator Joy Stewart, the program came to be by way of collaboration between SVC President Karen Gross and the Head of the Maple Street School Fran Bisselle.
"We've come to SVC a number of times for the Sarnoff Speech contest and Karen spoke at our graduation a few years ago," Stewart said, "I think the two of them were trying to think of ways to expand and broaden what each school does and also give the kids an opportunity to see what's out there."
Students in grades five through eight volunteered to participate in the program, according to Stewart, which will not only provide students with a college-aged role model, but also serve as creative means for the students to practice their math skills -- percentages in particular.
Stewart began hashing out the details of the program with SVC Men's Basketball Coach Dan Engelstad about three months ago.
Together, Engelstad and Stewart decided that the group of 13 students would monitor the Mountaineers' progress throughout the basketball season, keeping track of everything from the team's number of free throws to rebounds and everything in between.
Stewart will then work with the students once a week during lunchtime to correlate and analyze the data they've collected.
"I think the program is valuable on both ends," Engelstad said. "It gives us a chance to connect with the community and it gets kids from the local community to learn more about SVC and the game of basketball. The game has so much mathematics involved -- percentages are a big part of what we do. I think it's great that we can get students involved on that side and give the kids a chance to meet our guys. It's a two way street --They both get a lot in return."
Tuesday, students were matched with their basketball "buddies" according to height -- the tallest SVC player was paired with the tallest Maple Street School student.
Then, after touring SVC's lower campus, the students partook in their first statistic-collecting activity, counting the number of baskets made by each player during a "50 in 5" drill, a drill during which players must make as many baskets as they can in five minutes.
After the drill, mentors and mentees exchanged e-mail addresses.
According to Stewart, students will e-mail the players on a weekly basis to check in.
"Today they began to forge that relationship and hopefully it will continue throughout the season," Stewart said. "I think it's a great partnership."
Stewart said the Mountaineers plan to hold a basketball clinic at the Maple Street School for the mentees sometime during the season and that the students will attend a home game at SVC towards the end of the season.
Lauren Crosier, a 5th grader at the Maple Street School, was paired with SVC basketball player Eddie Mack.
Crosier said she is happy to be participating in the mentoring program, but for more than its educational aspect.
"I've played basketball since I was in kindergarten so I'm really excited to see them play in a game," she said.
According to Stewart, most of the students in the group play on Maple Street School's basketball team.
Students in the upper grades at the Maple Street School are required to mentor younger students, Stewart said.
"They're told to be leaders, to take on that responsibility, so I think it's really nice for these kids to be on the receiving end of it," Stewart said. "Anytime you can learn from someone older and learn from their experience, it's a really rewarding opportunity."
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.