“I feel like a whole different person when I walk through the door. It feels like a portal.” Tilly Mensah describes herself as a unicorn, one of those mythical creatures of lore. But when she steps through the doorway to Mrs. Adriana Connors’ kindergarten classroom at Blue Creek Elementary, one she describes as a portal, she feels human again.
As a Blue Creek 5th grader, Tilly is already looking forward to the challenges and experiences that await her at Shaker Junior High School. But it’s her dedication to the youngest students in her building that make her September’s North Colonie Kids Care winner.
At the end of her 3rd grade year following a meeting with Deputy Superintendent Kathy Skeals, Tilly made the decision that she wanted to give back to Blue Creek’s kindergarteners. During her 4th grade year she went to Mrs. Connors’ class each week to read an interactive story to the class. Tilly reads to the kindergarteners in the morning, starting her day, and their day, off with reading.
“Having her here has been absolutely amazing and special,” said Mrs. Connors. “The district talks about building relationships and being successful, and this exemplifies that. They connect with her, the kids just brighten up and she makes our day here in kindergarten so much better.”
Tilly says the kindergartners are very fun, and she got to know them all by name by the end of the year. Reading to them puts a smile on her face, and makes her want to continue to set a good example for the kids. At the conclusion of last school year, Tilly gathered some of her friends to help the kindergarteners make “slime”, which she says the younger students didn’t want to put away. “I love that she found a way she can shine and excite her fellow kids and bring so much to other children,” said Blue Creek Principal Annette Trapini.
Unicorns in mythology are immortal, and Tilly says she hopes that what she has started at Blue Creek will continue even after she has left the building. Perhaps she will recruit a kindergartener she regaled with stories to continue the tradition. Perhaps she will return herself, albeit not every week, as a junior high schooler. “They’re too lovable to resist,” she said of the kindergarteners.