One of Boston Partners in Education’s strongest assets is our ability to match volunteers with students with a high level of precision to make the mentoring experience as convenient and rewarding as possible. Sometimes our efforts are so successful that volunteers will continue to stay with us for years. In the case of John Montgomery (who was the 2017 recipient of our Joyna Bozzotto volunteer award) and Scott Emerman of Westfield Management, their first Power Lunch match in 2007 inspired them both to stay with the program. They have now been mentors with Boston Partners for a whopping ten years.
Power Lunch is a literacy-focused program that began in the Boston Public Schools over a decade ago. Volunteer reading mentors are paired with a student from grades K-3 and meet during the student’s lunch hour to read aloud and build foundational literacy skills for grade-level reading. The program’s design allows volunteers to alternate bi-weekly with the student they visit.
“It was presented as a volunteer opportunity you could share with another person,” Scott recalls of how he first joined Power Lunch. As frequent travelers, both Scott and John wanted to make sure they could meet their commitments to the student.
What makes Power Lunch unique is that volunteers can be matched with the same student for multiple years, allowing volunteers to be part of their student’s growth and development. Volunteers also build relationships with the public school, and students come to love the support and attention they receive each week.
Their first year with the program, Scott and John mentored a young girl named Destiny at the Blackstone Elementary School in the South End of Boston. She was a bright student who had some difficulties with reading, they recalled. Yet with a good deal of determination, she improved immensely during their time with her.
“We started with a great kid who was very responsive to our time and attention, and it was rewarding to be part of that,” John explains. “It was an environment that seemed to be supportive of our efforts and hers, so we felt welcome there.”
Although the mentors didn’t know what to expect from Destiny’s reading at first, she made significant progress. By the end of the year they took turns reading books with Destiny, alternating back and forth, sentence by sentence. “I recall Destiny, even from the beginning, was more willing to try reading. I don’t think she was as strong of a reader, but she picked it up quickly,” says Scott.
“I think one of the fun things about Destiny was she was up for anything and would be psyched to read anything that we would propose,” John adds.
Since Power Lunch takes place while students are eating, volunteers also collect fond memories from the laid back environment. “Destiny was pretty good at trading. She might have career prospects in our business, because she used to swap some of her food items with other students,” John laughs. “She was pretty good at accumulating tater tots and was a bit of an operator. So I have no doubt that she is going to be quite successful in whatever she plans to do.”
John and Scott were Power Lunch mentors with Destiny for three years. Looking back over their decade of service, the pair reflected on what kept bringing him back to the program year after year, even after Destiny aged out of the program.
“You know, I’ve enjoy reading and spending time with the kids,” explains Scott. “We’ve had good students that were good kids who enjoyed spending 45 minutes with us instead of running around and playing with their friends outside.” More than anything, Scott likes doing something good for kids that helps them gain a love for reading.
“When I’m there, all of the students we’ve worked with are happy to see us. That’s rewarding too, to feel someone is looking forward to spending that time with you,” affirms John. “That, as much as anything, brings you back.”
Be sure to check out our video here featuring John Montgomery and Scott Emerman with their current student, Javier.