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Next generation of IMentor, internet safety program MiniMentor educates Westport youth

Marley Belzer ’26 (left) and Taylor Brunetti ’25 (right) record new podcast-style IMentor videos at Westport’s Touquet Hall
Zoe Boxenbaum ’25
Marley Belzer ’26 (left) and Taylor Brunetti ’25 (right) record new podcast-style IMentor videos at Westport’s Touquet Hall

“How many hours per day on a video game is healthy? Am I addicted to my phone? What happens if I get a threatening message online?” 

These questions were asked by Coleytown and Bedford sixth graders following the annual IMentor internet safety presentation, a dual initiative between Westport Public Schools and the Westport Youth Commission (WYC). For over 10 years, the IMentor program has connected middle school students across Westport with high school students, encouraging peer-to-peer conversation about digital footprint, cyberbullying, screen time and healthy habits surrounding technology.

“Now that we are seeing kids getting phones younger and younger and seeing the risks of screen time and social media, we recognize an opportunity to expand the program [to younger students]” Westport Youth Services Director Kevin Godburn said.

We want to show kids that it’s ok to use their phones and enjoy that, but we also want to help guide them and prevent them from becoming addicted.”

— Taylor Brunetti ’25

  Helmed by Westport Youth Commission members, this new program, MiniMentor, creates and distributes podcast-style short form videos featuring WYC members sharing their experiences with technology and responding to students’ questions, fostering a personal connection between high school mentors and middle school students.

The MiniMentor team’s goal for this new iteration of the program is to implement and emphasize an interactive question-answer element as a hallmark of the program. Students and parents are able to ask questions and have the high school mentors respond to their unique questions with a video in just a few weeks, allowing the program to constantly adapt to the evolving needs of the students and their relationships to their technology.

“We really wanted to introduce the IMentor concepts earlier and be able to create different content based on age,”  WYC Youth Co-Member at large Taylor Brunetti ’25 said. “We want to show kids that it’s ok to use their phones and enjoy that, but we also want to help guide them and prevent them from becoming addicted.”

WYC members from all grades at Staples will be featured in the new, pre-recorded videos as well as be involved in an in-person conversation and presentation of these videos in the spring and fall. Marley Belzer ’26 has been involved in WYC for two years and is a part of the MiniMentor initiative under Godburn and Brunetti. 

“I’m so excited to be a part of IMentor this year, and really believe in the mission,” Belzer said. “I am confident that we are going to educate these younger kids and help to prevent them from getting into bad situations on the internet and let them learn from our mistakes.” 

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About the Contributor
Zoe Boxenbaum ’25, Broadcast Director
Zoe Boxenbaum ’25 has always been musically-inclined. At 9-years-old, she learned to play a variety of instruments from the electric bass to the piano. Now, as Broadcast Director for Inklings, Boxenbaum uses her musicality to connect with her school community.  “Being musical helps me appreciate and seek out other people’s unique talents,” she said.  Boxenbaum was drawn to broadcast journalism because of her desire to tell stories that are interactive, rather than simply written on paper. “Broadcasts allow people to show their skills, instead of just talking about them,” Boxenbaum said. “Musicians, for example, are given the chance to play.” 

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