MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon resident Kenesha Beheler recently spoke to students in the Big Buddies program for The Children’s Connection about her trip to India.
The buddy program works closely with elementary students at Dan Emmett, Twin Oak, Danville, Columbia, St. Vincent de Paul and Fredericktown elementary schools, where they are mentored by middle and high school students. Beheler, a reporter for the Mount Vernon News, gave a PowerPoint presentation which addressed the geography, diversity, culture, food and notable figures of Indian history. She also shared music of Hindi Pop, and passed around artifacts and souvenirs from her trip.
Sponsored by the Mount Vernon Rotary Club, Beheler was chosen as one of five members to participate in a monthlong group study exchange program through Rotary International. The GSE program sponsors young professionals between the ages of 25 to 40 to experience their vocation and the culture of another country.
“I’m really excited about sharing my experience of the beauty and wonder of India with the Big and Little Buddies,” said Beheler. “I believe the mentorship program is instrumental in uplifting our youth and encouraging them to achieve their educational goals. Having high school students communicate, motivate and support elementary students in their academics and in helping them socially adapt to a changing world is an exceptional opportunity.
“As a mentor in the community-based program, I understand the positive relationship I have on my mentee. For the last year, I’ve watched my Little Sister grow into a bright, beautiful young woman. And through this, I have been able to assist her with school work and encourage her daily life.”
Beheler said she hopes that through her presentation, students will engage in a greater understanding of diversity within the world, within America, and within Mount Vernon.
“The world is filled with so many opportunites. Children should know of its vastness and see diversity as a part of our community. Though Mount Vernon is less diverse as compared to a larger city, the community should continue to recognize and appreciate the uniqueness of being diverse,” she said.
“The bond with the Big Buddies and the Little Buddies is strong. They talk about what happens during the day, have snacks together, and then spend time bonding over an arts or crafts project,” said Jerry Wolf, case manager for Danville, Twin Oak and Columbia elementary schools.
“I love the program,” said Jennifer Postlewalte, a student at Mount Vernon High School who is in her first year in the mentoring program. “It’s great to build a bond and create a trust with the little buddies.”
“I like helping them with homework. It’s so easy for me, but they enjoy having someone to help them,” said Skyler Curtin, MVHS student.
Big Buddy Sydney Bland has participated in the program for two years, and last year won an award for her project on the Big Buddies Program at the Knox County Fair. This year she won the Violet Richardson scholarship from the Soroptimists organization for her project on the Big Buddies Program.
“I love interacting with my little buddy and having new experiences,” said Bland.
“I like [the program] because they pair us up and our little buddy can have an individual tailored experience,” said Ida Earley, Knox County Career Center student.