They say, “once a teacher, always a teacher.” Darcy Franklin can certainly relate. A former middle school educator, Darcy was inspired in 2020 to find a way to give back to the Boston community after seeing the impact of racial violence and pandemic anxiety on youth. When she learned about BPIE, she soon found herself gravitating back to a familiar setting.
“I thought, ‘what can I do to try and either help people or bridge that gap – what can I do with my current skill set?’ With Boston Partners, it seemed like a great match. The commitment was good because I needed to be available for my kids. The one-hour virtual week was very, very manageable. That got me in the door and got me excited about volunteering.”
Initially a mentor through our online programming, Darcy has the unique experience of mentoring remotely first, then transitioning to in-person. Last year, she was matched with a middle school student at the Edison K-8 School in Ms. Sippen’s online classroom. When volunteers were welcomed back into the Edison school building this year, Darcy jumped at the chance to work alongside Ms. Sippen in-person.
This year, Darcy meets with Savannah, an eighth grader who needed some extra help with math and a boost of confidence with her classwork. Sometimes math can be overwhelming for Savannah, but Darcy is able to apply her teaching instincts to meet Savannah where she’s at. “She’s usually pretty game to get going but she has a limit where at some point she’s just done – and I’m sensitive to that,” says Darcy. “So we’ll take a break, sit and chat, or go for a walk instead.”
Darcy’s experience helps her read the situation clearly, but so does her being physically present in the classroom, where she’s able to better sense the emotions of students. That’s the biggest difference she’s experienced when comparing online and in-person mentoring.
“Last year was a challenge. I always felt good being there and doing the work, but I never really knew if I was helping or if it was having an effect on her. [Between masks and video] I couldn’t see her emotions. But she wrote me this letter at the end of the year that literally had me in tears – she was just so appreciative. She expressed that she looked forward to our sessions every time and that I always made it fun. And I didn’t know any of this.” Even if she had never received that letter, Darcy stresses the importance of being committed to students every week and trusting the results.
“Whether they’re engaged or not – just show up, be there and be available, and it’ll be worth it. They’ll remember that you stuck with them.”
Developing a close relationship with Ms. Sippen in the process has been an added bonus for Darcy. Given her background, Darcy can empathize with any challenges she’s experiencing in the classroom and offer support beyond her match with Savannah.
“My main purpose of coming to the classroom is to help Savannah – but after class Ms. Sippen has a free block, and as a former teacher myself, I’m happy to stay,” Darcy explains. “If I can make a key for homework, make copies, or help get materials together – it’s what I would have appreciated when I was a teacher.”
As she spends more time around Ms. Sippen’s classroom, the other students have come to see Darcy as a part of their learning experience, too. Now, when she enters the classroom, the entire class welcomes her. Some days, Darcy even stays an extra period to help a few more students who have asked for support.
“I come here first for Savannah, but if I can make any kid feel like that, that’s worth it,” says Darcy. “Watching Savannah have a good day and walk away from that math assignment having a little more confidence than when she walked into the classroom – that is where I get my energy.”
Darcy’s hope is that more people in Boston continue to learn about the benefits of mentoring and that there are resources like BPIE available right in your own backyard. “I think there’s a lot of people out there feeling lost in that they don’t know how to make an impact and they don’t even know where to start but just one hour a week can make such a difference in somebody’s life.”
According to MENTOR National, young people with a mentor are 52% less likely to skip a day of school, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities, and 130% more likely to hold a leadership position in a club or sports team.
Currently, Boston Partners in Education is serving over 600 Boston Public Schools students but there are still over 150 students waiting to be matched with a mentor in-person. If you are interested in becoming a mentor to a BPS student in a classroom, National Mentoring Month is the perfect time to get involved. Become an academic mentor today!