By David Voegele
Executive Director, Essex CHIPS

Last week I wrote about the positive impact that quality mentoring often has on a young person’s life. This topic is so important that I asked Eliza Kuchuk, the Director of Youth Engagement at Essex CHIPS, to offer her thoughts on the power of mentoring. She had much to say.

In the FriendCHIPS Youth Mentoring program, adult mentors are matched with student mentees at Founders Memorial School and Essex Middle School. Each week they spend an hour together at school. The focus is on having fun. Their time together may include playing games, doing arts and crafts, kicking or throwing a ball outside, or just talking. The power of this relationship can be profound. Through a thriving mentoring relationship, a youth can be empowered to make healthy choices – to perhaps become a future leader.

Brennen was in the fifth grade when Pete Gunn became his mentor. Four years later, they are still going strong. They enjoy playing different types of games, and tossing a football outside. Like any relationship, their bond took time to develop and grow. At first Brennen was somewhat quiet, but Pete was consistent and continued to find ways to make connections. Pete commented ‘I think it’s pretty cool that at first he wasn’t that talkative, and it’s nice to see him be more talkative over time.’ When asked what has changed in his life because of Pete, Brennen said, ‘I feel more comfortable talking to new people and not being so shy.’ Another student recently said ‘This has changed my life because I can talk to my mentor when something happens.’

There is always a need for mentors. Unfortunately, the need far exceeds the number of available adults. Yet most mentors say that this experience is a fun break from their everyday schedule. When Pete was asked what surprised him the most about mentoring, he said ‘How fulfilling it can be and knowing that you make a difference in the other person’s life.’ Clearly, the positive impact goes both ways.

So… are you a possible mentor? If so, Eliza would love to hear from you. There are Essex youth in need of mentors right now. Feel free to contact Eliza about this rewarding opportunity at

In closing for today, please be aware of an upcoming terrific event for parents/grandparents and kids (and mentoring pairs!). The 2nd Annual Vermont Birdie Bash will be on January 27th (Sunday). The Bash will consist of three distinct “Birdie” tournaments (modified indoor badminton) at ADL School. Visit for more info. The Bash will be a Blast!