Boy's Mentorship Program Sparks Conversation

July 16, 2014

A group of five OLQA 5th graders are enjoying working with their new mentor, an artist and friend of the school Mr. John van Rens. The mentorship program began in late March 2014 and will run for 3 years with the same handful of students working directly with Mr. van Rens. This program was started by the Partnership for Inner-City Education’s Cee Greene and Jill Kafka. They, with the support of Principal Walsh, turned to Mr. van Rens in an effort to provide students with a role model from outside the students’ immediate environment to support them. Mr. van Rens, an established and talented painter, is familiar with working with children, having taught religious education to 7th graders in his neighborhood parish and is moved by the opportunity.

As part of the mentorship group, the students will conduct open discussion about their lives, interests, and opinions. Through the mediums of short stories, psalms, art, news articles, painting, music, and sports activities, Mr. van Rens sparks conversation with the boys. He reflects about the task ahead of him saying, “I’ll be experiencing a shared journey with the boys over the next three years that allows them to have discourse with the greater world around them. I hope they will learn to pause and consider things and think, ‘wow, that’s really interesting.’” Mr. van Rens is no stranger to reflection, having lived in a monastery for six years of his life. It’s his hope that he imparts a spirit of curiosity and critical thinking. “To me,” he says, “part of being alive is seeing that there are things in the world that stop you and catch you. And that they themselves are unique individuals.”