Student Org Leader Spotlight: Elissa DeNunzio, Community Friends

Community Friends is a one-on-one mentoring programs that matches Middlebury College students with children ages 6-12 in Addison County. The program was originally founded in 1960 by the Counseling Services of Addison County, and now runs as a Student Organization advised by the Center for Community Engagement. Mentors meet with their matches for at least two hours per week. Matches can have fun exploring campus, crafting, attending sports events, eating in the dining halls, and much more! For more information, check out their webpage here.

Below is an interview with Elissa DeNunzio ’18, the lead coordinator of Community Friends.

Why should folks join Community Friends? What will they take away from the experience? 

Community Friends is a great opportunity to connect with a child in the local Addison County community. Mentors are able to develop a new friendship and have fun while doing it!

Not only can mentors help their mentees with problems at school or with their peers, but mentors can also learn a lot from their mentees about Addison County and how to build a meaningful relationship. Mentoring is not just a one-way relationship, but we can learn a lot from our mentees too! Plus it is always fun to run around campus, watch movies in Axinn, or make amazing dining hall creations in Proctor! 

Why did you first join Community Friends?

I joined Community Friends because I am interested in becoming an elementary school teacher. I wanted another opportunity to engage with children outside of the classroom. I participated in a Big Brother Big Sister program in high school and wanted to continue my mentoring experience in college. I was excited to have the opportunity to build another relationship and connect with Addison County in the process. 

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of Community Friends?

As a coordinator, I have loved being able to watch the program grow. Over the past few years, Community Friends has had up to eighty matches at one time. I love watching matches interact during our monthly events, whether that is playing an intense game of football, decorating cookies, or showing off magic tricks. I am excited to see how the program becomes even more successful throughout the rest of the school year, especially with our new mentor training series! 

What have you learned, either about yourself or the world around you, as a member of Community Friends?

During my work as a coordinator, I have had several discussions about effective techniques for communicating and engaging with children. In our recent new mentor training, Laura Basili shared the importance of active listening skills. I have learned about the importance of listening instead of trying to solve other people’s problems. I have gotten to put these techniques into practice while meeting with my mentee and even in conversations with my peers on campus. Community Friends has provided me with the skills to better communicate with peers in and out of the program. 

Where are you from and what’s your major? What other activities are you involved with on campus? 

I am from Darien, CT. I am a double psychology and elementary student teaching major (the first one!). On campus, I am on the varsity diving team and work at the student mail center.