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Mentoring program offers bittersweet lesson for local students

(WCAX)
Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 4:39 PM EST
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A New York mentoring program has been connecting kids in the classroom with professionals for years, hoping to inspire continued education.

College For Every Student is hosting its annual "Mentoring Madness" program this week at the Beekmantown Central School District. One mentor in particular is here to teach students that tomorrow isn't always promised.

The 7th grade class at Beekmantown Central School is getting a first-hand look at what the future could bring to its students.

"I really liked it," said Rachael Finley, a 7th grader. "Your interests change a lot when you're a kid."

Volunteers from around the region are here to teach students about their day jobs. They heard from law enforcement officers, teachers, soldiers and sales people, like Miguel Rodriguez. "Five days out of the week I probably travel," Rodriguez said.

The mentors told the students to focus on skills they believe they need to succeed. In Tuesday's six career examples those skills happen to be agility, perseverance, networking, teamwork, leadership and goal-setting.

Rodriguez traveled all the way from Connecticut to be apart of this year's program because his brother, Gabe, is not here this year. "He had stage 4 cancer and no one knew, and he passed away in June," Rodriguez said. "Gabe knows that education is the way out."

He and and his brother grew up downstate in New York City. "There weren't a lot of opportunities where we grew up," Rodriguez said.

Gabe found his way to Vermont, working at UVM in the admissions office. His brother says he knew how important education was and wanted students to start thinking about their future sooner rather than later. "The passion that he had when he spoke to the kids, knowing that tomorrow isn't guaranteed for him," Rodriguez said.

This is the first Mentoring Madness Gabe has missed. To honor his brother, Rodriguez is doing his best to fill the big shoes that were left behind and using his story to show the youth of tomorrow that anything is possible.

"The kids learn from adults and they're like, 'Wow, if that guy can make it -- he made it out -- maybe I can too,'" Rodriguez said.

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