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VOICE Mentors Connect with Students via Books, Games

VOICE Mentors can choose books from the donated library of options to give to their mentees for birthdays or other occastions

A storage room in the district office is lined with bookshelves, chock full of appealing choices, ranging from picture books to graphic novels to series aimed at older readers. Donated to the VOICE Mentor Program, the books are available to all current mentors who would like to give a present to their mentee for a birthday, or, occasionally for other significant events such as a student moving away or leaving the program. The choices, which include popular books and series such as “Wings of Fire,” “Land of Stories,” “Harry Potter” and more, are often recommended by librarians and other book experts. 

“Being able to give my mentees a book really helped them feel loved and special,” said Terri Hintz, who mentors at two schools in the district. “They so appreciated getting the books and knowing that someone (me) cared about them enough to give them a book. It helped strengthen our connection.” 

The collection is about to get an influx of new books, games and activities, thanks to a $2,000 grant from the Issaquah Schools Foundation. The foundation reviews funding requests from teachers and staff throughout the district annually and determines which projects and requests to fund. 

“We are so grateful for the foundation’s ongoing support and recognition of the importance that books and activities play in developing strong mentor relationships,” said Heidi Kayler, one of two VOICE Program managers for the district. “Not only has our library become a pillar of the program ... it’s also a powerful way to maintain the Foundation/VOICE bond that started way back when,” Kayler added, referring to the fact that the VOICE program was founded as an Issaquah Schools Foundation program and then transitioned to being a district program. 

In addition to books, the collection includes games, cards and supplies for activity bags that mentors take to their sessions with mentees. Mentors sometimes assist students with studying and schoolwork, but equally important is their general support of the student and the positive relationship with another supportive adult (or older teen). The books and other activities offer points of connection and discussion for mentors and mentees. 

“Books, games, puzzles, all are a starting point for learning, discussing, sharing, bonding. Having the tools to find what ‘works’ for a particular child to help them grow, work through difficulties, open up, and have fun is so helpful,” said Ann Backman, another VOICE mentor. “One of my favorite stories is about a kindergartener who didn’t see why she needed to come to school. I had a kids’ cookbook that we looked through, enjoying the pictures. When I asked what she might like to make, she picked out a picture of smoothies. Then we talked about being able to read the ingredients and the directions so we would know how to make them, and her teacher had us make some for the class. It made a big impression.” 

The VOICE Program currently has 276 active mentors, who are matched with 351 mentees. More than 100 students across the district are waiting to be matched with a mentor – which means that they have been recommended to work with a VOICE mentor by a teacher, counselor or other member of staff, but that there are not enough mentors to meet that need. Specifically, the program is in need of male mentors, as well as male mentors of color to support students awaiting a match.  

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the VOICE program can visit our website, the VOICE Program Facebook page, or reach out to VOICE Mentor Program Managers Kayler and Tina Weber at Training, inspiration and assistance is provided for mentors. 


Some of the books that VOICE mentors can choose from, in a library of donated volumes.