'Big sister' nominated for mentor of the year

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MANCHESTER — A town resident is among eight people in the running to win the 2019 Vermont Mentor of the Year Award. The online voting is ongoing, and the winner will be recognized at the statehouse next month.

Kasia Sosnow, 34, has been a "big sister" to 10-year-old Sophie Hill for the past two years, spending time with the fifth-grader every weekend, including going horseback riding, swimming and hiking. The pair likes to also go to the bookstore, visit the animal shelter in Arlington and play with Sosnow's pet cat and dog.

Sosnow, a native of Long Island, N.Y., has been serving as a classroom and a special education teacher at Manchester Elementary Middle School for 10 years. In the summer of 2016, she volunteered as a mentor at the United Counseling Service's Big Brothers Big Sisters program in the Northshire after a representative of the organization said there was a long list of children in the area seeking mentors.

"She begged for people to sign up because there was such a deficit of mentors," Sosnow said.

Young people with mentors are less likely to engage in risky behavior involving drugs and alcohol, and they're more likely to pursue college and post-secondary education, as well as develop good interpersonal relationships, according to national studies by Big Brothers Big Sisters and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, which co-organizes the Vermont Mentor of the Year Award.

Sosnow's impact as a mentor led Big Brothers Big Sisters to nominate her for the award, which was first given out in 2016 and has not yet been taken home by a Bennington County resident.

Laurie Sallisky, Big Brothers Big Sisters' Northshire program coordinator, wrote in her nomination letter that Sosnow has developed a "loving, trusting and nurturing relationship with her mentee, Sophie, who will be the first to tell you what a difference Kasia has made in her life."

Sosnow has also helped identify children in need of mentors, trains new mentors and invites other children to join her and Sophie when their mentors can't make it, Sallisky added.

The eight nominees include people from Londonderry and Middlebury. Members of the public can see the nominee profiles at mentorvt.org/MentorOfTheYear/ and cast their votes till Jan. 6, which will narrow the field to three finalists.

A committee will chose the grand awardee, who will be recognized at the Vermont Statehouse on Jan. 23. The award, presented by Comcast, is a part of MENTOR Vermont's celebration of Vermont Mentoring Month each January.

And it turns out, it's not just the children who benefit from the mentoring relationship.

Sosnow, who lives away from her family, said "being a 'big sister' to Sophie has really helped me feel like I'm part of the community."

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.

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