Written By: Kelly Mesler 17′

The Killington Friendship Project, first founded as the Castleton Mentoring Program, began after the devastating effects hurricane Irene had on the Killington community. Flooding during hurricane Irene severely damaged homes, roads, businesses, and many other parts of Killington. Students in the ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) class in the psychology department saw this as an opportunity to step up and help the Killington community using their knowledge and skills learned in the classroom.

irene-friendship-program

The mentoring program began as a way students of KES (Killington Elementary School) could connect with the college students from Castleton. Using the principles they learned from ABA, Castleton students worked on building lasting relationships with the students of KES as well as being their role models, leaders, and mentors during the tough time their community faced.

A couple of years later, there was a need to continue the program at Killington. As a new member of the ABA class, I was looking for a project to take on and the devastating effects of hurricane Irene hit close to home for me. Many parts of my hometown in Vermont (about 45 minutes away from Killington) were also heavily affected by the flooding.  I took this opportunity to continue the program and fulfill my predecessors’ achievements to my best ability.

I met with the KES guidance counselor and we discussed goals for the project, making a detailed plan for what we hoped to accomplish. The project was renamed Killington Friendship Project with hopes that the program would be geared less towards mentoring and more towards social and personal self-esteem building.

To promote self-esteem and social skills building, team building and mindfulness activities are implemented into recess and lunch time during weekly meetings with students. Students’ self-esteem is measured with Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale, so far showing a slight increase over time on certain aspects of self-esteem. I have noticed more qualitative rather than quantitative changes but hope as the project continues; I will be able to better measure the successes and shortcomings.

friendship-program

The project is now continuing in its third year under my coordination. The connections built through the program have helped establish a relationship between the university and Killington that was not as prevalent before. I will continue to volunteer at Killington during my senior year at Castleton with hopes that another ABA or Civic Engagement student will be eager to become involved in the program and at some point take over the project as their own!