Pete Lang, 59, of East Lyme never had children.
So more than a decade ago, when Northeast Utilities asked its employees at if they wanted to mentor a child in Waterford schools, Lang jumped at the chance. He has been mentoring ever since, including the last nine years with the same child.
“It certainly is the highlight of my week,” Lang said. “I had a mentor when I was in college, and I knew what it meant to me. I’m just paying it forward.”
Lang is one of 15 current mentors from Millstone who come in once a week for an hour and meet with a Waterford student during the student’s lunch and recess break. Waterford elementary school principals Pat Fedor and Nancy Macione both praised the program, which is run by the Waterford Youth Services Bureau.
“The kids love the one-on-one attention,” Macione said, who is the principal at . “To have a special person just for them, that goes a long way.”
About The Program
The program began when Northeast Utilities owned Millstone more than a decade ago. The company, after some urging by the Waterford Youth Service Bureau, would give employees a paid hour off a week to spend with a Waterford student. When Dominion bought the plant in 2001, the company decided to keep the program, Millstone Spokesman Ken Holt said.
“It made sense to continue it,” Holt said. “It has had lasting effects, not only on the children but the adults who do it. Everybody wins.”
It begins when parents sign a document asking for a mentor for their child, according to Fedor. Generally, students with social or academic issues receive a mentor, or a student who needs an adult role model, she said.
Most of the mentors are men, and the mentors always have same-sex students, so most of the students who are mentored are boys as well, Waterford Youth Services Program Director Erin Eccleston said. Students can receive mentors from Dominion at any age, and those mentors will stay with the student until graduation or until the family no longer requests a mentor, she said.
The Millstone employees are screened and only spend time with the children on school grounds, Fedor said. They spend an hour with the child during lunch and recess, she said.
“They’ve been great,” Fedor said. “The kids really look forward to it.”
Lang is a rare person who mentors two children, a tenth grade Waterford High School student and an eighth-grader at Clark Lane Middle School. Lang has been a mentor for the tenth-grader since he was in the second grade, and a mentor for the eighth-grader for the past three years, he said.
Lang said when he was in college, he lacked social skills, was struggling in school and was “lost.” He met a college professor who turned into his mentor, and turned his life around, he said.
When Lang first met the current tenth grade student in the second grade, the student needed help in those same areas. Lang’s goal over the past nine years has been to improve his social skills, make him feel comfortable and most of all, just be there for him.
“Consistency,” Lang said, when asked what the students get out of it. “I’m there every week.”
Lang says more than anything, he listens to the student, and lets him know he can talk about whatever he wants without judgment. Lang said he plans on retiring soon, but will continue to be a mentor.
“I get to see someone smile when I walk into the room,” Lang said. “That feels pretty sweet.”