WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. Eastview Middle School seventh and eighth graders celebrated the holiday season with the hermanas, or sisters, they met while being paired with a college student in El Centro Hispano's Mi Hermana Mayor mentoring program.
School staff joined El Centro Hispano and program participants as they exchanged gifts and holiday greetings in a classroom lined with red ribbons, stuffed snowmen, and a buffet cooked by the mentees' families.
Isabel Villar, the executive director of El Centro Hispano, thanked school staff members for their support and Pat Lanza, who helped organize and finance Mi Hermana Mayor.
"She is the lady who has made this possible not only with funding but with her heart and love," Villar said of Lanza, an Eastchester Resident who has become very involved with El Centro Hispano. "I saw the grades for the first marking period and I was delighted to see the improvement."
Clouet praised the program, which combines guest speaking on higher education and tips for success with tutoring and mentoring from young woman attending college.
"Thank you so much for the work you're doing and for being role models and guides. It does make a difference and years later they'll remember," Clouet said after noting that all 20 seventh and eighth grade girls in the program planned to attend college.
Lizet Amado, 21, a Port Chester student studying criminal justice at Westchester Community College, said she decided to join the mentoring and tutoring program after missing her younger brother and wanting to get involved with folks his age.
"I wish I was in a program like this when I was their age because I struggled and I wish somebody could've helped me," said Amado. "The girls are very sweet and capable. We'll do homework and usually on Tuesdays we have guest speakers come in and motivate the girls."
Other mentors including, Rosa Orzuna, 19, said Mi Hermana Mayor benefited the older sisters as well.
"It's a good experience. It's not like anything I've done before and I used to do tutoring and other programs," said Orzuna, a White Plains resident studying business and administration management at Westchester Community College. "You get to help her and it feels good when her grades improve."
Lanza, who gives the mentors a nearly $2,000 college scholarship, said the 2-year-old program has been so successful that she would like to see a counterpart for middle school boys emerge.
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