SMART Mentoring builds relationships

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When it comes to building a strong relationship and teaching useful skills, bicycling seems to have worked its magic with SMART mentor, Patrick Mateer ‘15, and his mentee. SMART Mentoring, a program developed by Volunteers for Youth, a local community organization, and the Carolina Center for Public Service, is designed to foster meaningful mentoring relationships between UNC students and 8 to 13-year-olds in the local community. Through SMART Mentoring, Mateer and his 8-year-old mentee have laid the ground work for a strong relationship by connecting on bike rides to many destinations in Chapel Hill.

From getting frozen yogurt to visiting the fire station, Mateer is proud at how confident his mentee is biking on the roads and moving about the town more independently without needing to be driven everywhere. Mateer may have taught his mentee about bicycle safety, but Mateer has also learned some very valuable communication skills. “He has taught me to be very clear about communication when you talk to someone who may not have all the same cultural norms.”

Started in the fall of 2010, SMART Mentoring is an undergraduate service-learning program that includes two sociology courses that provide a foundation for rich learning inside and outside of the classroom. Mateer enjoyed the  reflection portion of the courses, where he was able to spend time reflecting on his mentoring experiences, which ultimately led to him learning more about himself in the process.

Mateer added that being a SMART mentor has been rewarding for him during his time at Carolina. “I feel much more connected to the community and I care more about the town’s policies because they affect my mentee.”

Now in its third year, SMART Mentoring provides an engaging service-learning experience for Carolina students and structured activities for young students, creating meaningful memories that will stay with each of them forever. “It feels great to give a child an experience he or she may not have otherwise had, especially experiences you know you enjoyed as a child,” Mateer said.

Mateer embraces this commitment and values the mentor/mentee relationship because it allowed him to “learn so much from each other” and, at the same time, to learn a lot about himself and the impact he had on others during each mentoring experience.