Girls/Boyz First begins its next chapter and welcomes new Program Director, Kim Smith, as former Director, Wendy Freundlich, retires after 22 years of dedication and service. Kim comes to us having served youth for over 20 years, most recently as Program Manager for Everybody Wins! Vermont, a statewide reading mentor program.
Having moved to central Vermont from Boston in 1997, Kim brings a diverse array of skills and interests. She discovered a passion for making the world a better place during her undergraduate years, majoring in English and Women’s Studies at Wesleyan University. Since then, she has worked with many nonprofits including Bikes Not Bombs, Goddard College and Food Works at Two Rivers Center. She’s been part of missions that range from substance abuse prevention, bioregional food security, bicycle repair and skill building for inner city youth to dance, education, afterschool enrichment and mentoring. As a community member and volunteer, she has coached student teams in Destination Imagination and First Lego League Robotics, served as Treasurer for the Main Street Middle School Parents Group, helped promote Montpelier’s Ice on Fire winter festival and served as Co-Coordinator at the North Branch Community Garden.
Mentoring helps kids feel more connected
and cared for… Having a mentor to serve
as a role model and help them pursue their
interests is a big deal.
Kim explains, “Community has always been important to me. Knowing I have friends and others there to support me — to share knowledge and resources or to just have fun — helps me so much. I feel like people know me and I belong. Mentoring helps kids feel more connected and cared for, too. Having a mentor to serve as a role model and help them pursue their interests is a big deal.”
As both a former mentor and mentor program coordinator in Barre City, she knows the special bond that develops between mentors and mentees. “It’s so rewarding to see children thrive with individualized attention and watch their confidence grow. It’s exciting and reassuring for them to know this person is there, just for them, wanting to get to know them and have fun. They get to try new things and their outlook improves. They take pride in being part of something special.”
Though the need for mentoring has grown, programs have struggled, she explains. “The pandemic has been hard on all of us. More than ever, with parents and teachers so maxed out, kids can really use the stability and extra care that a mentor provides.” Despite mentor recruitment challenges and group activity limitations due to Covid, Kim hopes to experiment with an online mentoring component, implement skills-based outdoor workshops and diversify the volunteer base by inviting more BIPOC and queer community members to get involved. “As we come up with new approaches to pivot with the times, the promise of vaccines coming for elementary aged children will help a lot. We’re lucky to have a high vaccination rate in Vermont, but continuing to be thoughtful and cautious protects our vulnerable community members.”
Kim loves spending time with children and working with volunteers and is looking forward to making a difference in children’s lives through the Girls/Boyz First Mentoring program. “As much as we may want it to, the world doesn’t always offer awesome opportunities and promote healthy development for every child. Even the most excellent schools aren’t always a great fit for certain kids. That’s where mentoring can really help. But honestly, having a mentor is great for any child who wants one. Plus it’s rewarding, sometimes life-changing, for the mentors, too.”
Even the most excellent schools aren’t
always a great fit for all kids. That’s
where mentoring can really help.
But having a mentor is great for
any child who wants one. Plus it’s
rewarding, sometimes life-changing,
for the mentors, too.
Kim lives in Montpelier with her 16-year-old son and two cats. She loves to do crafts, paint with watercolors, ride bicycles, swim, cook, garden, play music, make soap, ice skate, hike, camp, and more. And she says, “If you like being with kids and doing fun stuff, you’d probably make a great mentor!”
Girls/Boyz First Mentoring is a program of Washington Central Friends of Education. If you or someone you know would like more information about becoming a mentor, please contact Kim at (802) 552-0249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also support Central Vermont children by making a tax-deductible donation online at https://girlsboyzfirst.org/donate-today/ or by mailing a check to Girls/Boyz First Mentoring, c/o Washington Central Friends of Education, PO Box 324, Montpelier, VT 05601-0324.
Photo credit: Rowan Harple