LAWRENCE, Mass. — Stella Gollihur sat in the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence last Wednesday afternoon and asked her mentee, Mya Joseph, to take out her English homework so they can work through it together. Mya, a fourth-grader at Lawrence Catholic Academy, began looking through her folder but not before showing Gollihur her recent test grades.
“Did you get any 100s?” Gollihur asked Mya.
“Not now,” Mya said.
But, the 10-year-old pointed out, she did receive a 90 on one test.
She shuffled through other tests, showing Gollihur her grades.
“Good work,” Gollihur, 17, said. “So smaht.”
She and Mya chuckled.
It was a lighthearted moment in a close bond Gollihur has forged with Mya over the past several years. Gollihur, a Tyngsboro resident and senior at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, has mentored Mya since she was a sophomore through her school’s Marist Mentors program. Created in 2010 by former student Michelle Abou-Raad, the program places Central Catholic students in a weekly commitment to mentor children served at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.
Since she has two older brothers, Gollihur said she always liked the idea of having someone younger in her life who she could be a role model to.
She said seeing Mya brightens her week.
“I love her so much. I can’t even put into words how much she means to me,” Gollihur said. “She’s not quite a teenager yet, but I can definitely see the growth of her between the three years that I’ve worked with her. I know I’m helping her, I know I’m helping her with her homework, I’m playing games with her, but she’s done a lot for me.”
So active is Gollihur in the Marist Mentors program that she was appointed this year as the student coordinator.
“I think her role is really the heart and soul of it this year,” said Dave M. DeFillippo, director of communications at Central Catholic High School. “To both be an example to the mentors here of what it means to commit yourself to the life of a young person… the second is to encourage others to be conscientious about their commitment.”
Once or twice a week, Gollihur meets with Mya at the club and they work on homework together or do math exercises. Afterwards, they play a game. Gollihur affectionally calls her mentee “Mya Mya Jumpalaya” because Mya has a habit of jumping when she’s excited. They even have a handshake, which they proudly showed a Sun reporter last week before erupting into laughter.
Before she turns over the responsibility of student coordinator to another Central Catholic student upon graduation (she’s heading to Indiana University to study accounting), Gollihur said her goal has been to increase the number of peers who become mentors, and to raise accountability.
“We do get service hours at school for mentoring, but it’s more than just service hours,” she said. “I want them to genuinely develop a relationship with their mentee because I know it’s definitely, like I said, it brightens my week every time I see Mya. I want everyone else to experience how important this is… and it’s important for the kids, too.”
Information from: The (Lowell, Mass.) Sun, http://www.lowellsun.com