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Eighth grade students learn the ropes from Weston mentor program

Madeline Johnson, right, worked with Carolyn Kepcher, general manager of the Aspetuck Valley Country Club, as part of the Weston Middle’s annual mentorship program.During Weston Middle School’s annual eighth grade mentorship program, students have had the opportunity to fly with a professional pilot, observe surgery, ride alongside police officers and learn some amazing culinary tricks. For 14 years, middle school students have partnered with area professionals to get a taste of what it would be like to work in a number of occupational fields.

This year, 150 students and 70 mentors, representing 26 professions, participated in the program coordinated by Weston Middle School English teacher Kristy Peterson. Ms. Peterson became the program’s advisor in 2010 after its founder, Talented and Gifted (TAG) teacher Myra Motroni, retired.

Ms. Peterson begins each year’s planning session with a quote from Oprah Winfrey in mind: “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside of yourself.” Each year, students discover new things about themselves and gain real experience through their varied work activities.

The Aspetuck Valley Country Club (AVCC) has been a part of the program for several years and was one of six sites visited to learn about the culinary arts.

Kiersten  DalyKiersten Daly and Lindsay Kapel literally got a taste of what it was like to be a professional chef when they were paired with Gerard Clinton, AVCC executive chef. He shared his passion for cooking with fresh ingredients, instructing his mentees on the diverse skills needed to julienne vegetables, roll sushi and create other edible delights.

According to both Kiersten and Lindsay, “The food was great. We loved the chocolate almond cake the best!”

Both girls were able to share what they learned, including a few delectable recipes, with Weston Middle School staff, community members, family and friends at the Mentorship Celebration April 11 in the Weston Middle School library.

Lindsay KapelFor Chef Gerard, the chance to mentor students interested in cooking was a great experience as he revealed, “It is always refreshing to see such commitment to this industry at such an early stage in Lindsay and Kiersten’s life. The girls did a great job and I look forward to seeing them prosper in this field.”

In addition, Carolyn Kepcher, AVCC general manager, mentored Madeline Johnson, who hopes to become a wedding event planner one day.

Ms. Kepcher welcomed the chance to be involved in the program. No stranger to mentoring young women in management, she was the recipient of the 2010 Stevie Award for Women in Business in the category of “Women Helping Women.” She was also nominated for “Mentor of the Year.”

Although eighth graders are not her normal mentees, Carolyn enjoyed the opportunity to work with Maddie. When asked her thoughts on the experience, Ms. Kepcher said, “Now here is a girl who has direction! …She will, in fact, be a wedding planner someday. I am amazed by her knowledge of this industry at such a young age. Her passion and dedication clearly came through.”

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