BAMSM expansion brings mentors to more kids

Under a mentoring program new to Woodland Hills School District this year, two participating students have benefited enough from their adult mentors that they’ve started trying to do a little mentoring themselves.

D’ Marcus and Keshawn both said adult mentors from the Be a Middle School Mentor (BAMSM) program helped them stay motivated about school so they’re trying to do the same for their peers. 

“I’ve noticed them both mentoring others,” said Woodland Hills teacher Emily Beitler, who accompanied students on a field trip to the Roberto Clemente Museum.

The boys were among a handful of program participants who took a few minutes during the fieldtrip to talk about what they were learning in BAMSM.

“If somebody’s getting bad grades, I try to help them,” explained D’ Marcus, adding that the mentoring program had taught him to “be more respectful of peers and others” and more attuned their needs.

Keshawn said the mentoring program made him realize the importance of teamwork and “the way you need everybody.” Because of that, he’s tried to lend a hand or an ear whenever he notices friends or classmates looking like they might need some help or someone to talk to.

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania launched BAMSM in Pittsburgh ten years ago and over the decade turned it into an award-winning program. To build on that success beyond the city limits, United Way partnered with the Consortium this year to take BAMSM to Clairton and McKeesport Area school districts as well as Woodland Hills. Together the newly added districts drew nearly 40 students and more than 20 adult mentors. Consortium staff members bring together mentors and mentees once a week at each site.

From getting better grades to coping with test anxiety, kids said they found BAMSM helped them with lots of things. Makayla, for example, said activities with mentors in Woodland Hills helped “to calm us down when the PSSAs were coming up.”

Nor were kids the only beneficiaries, said Vann Williams, a Wabtec employee who became an adult mentor in Woodland Hills.

“I got a lot from the kids,” he said. “They’re smart and they’ve got compassion—I think our kids get a bad rap. I think I get more from them than they do from me.”