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Fall 2000
Vol. 63, No. 1

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MOM TO MOM

"It takes a village to raise a child" may have become a bit of a cliché after Hillary Rodham Clinton borrowed from it for her best-selling book. But for two Rochester alums, Gloria Patchen Alexander '49 and Sarah Wylie '96, the sentiment has taken on a quite literal meaning through a new project they are launching in their own home village, Arlington, Vermont.

The pair share the conviction that a child's development is inextricably linked with the society in which he or she lives--and a healthy outcome depends on how well that society supports its families and individuals.

With that principle firmly in mind, Alexander and Wylie are striving to make their own difference through a community program they call "Mom to Mom."

The project is aimed, Wylie says, at "restructuring the community fabric of mothering." She notes that women today are often working mothers, and all too often also single parents without family nearby. Mom to Mom, she says, is a way of mobilizing local support for these women.

Initiated in November 1999, Mom to Mom operates from Arlington's Burdett Commons Community Center. Alexander, a clinical social worker, coordinates the program. Wylie, "an aspiring midwife working toward a degree in naturopathic medicine," is assisting her as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer, working through the American Red Cross.

Believed to be unique, Mom to Mom pairs mothers as mentors and mentees so they can pool information, experience, and hard-won parenting skills. Alexander says what sets their effort apart is that it is a cooperative effort. "The experienced mothers are not telling the new mothers what to do. It's a partnership."

Alexander, who meets monthly with their cadre of mentors, has been training them in such important mentoring attributes as maintaining confidentiality, effective communication, and problem solving.

Wylie meanwhile is focused on recruiting the mentees. She hopes that teen mothers will make use of the Mom to Mom program because in many ways they're the ones who can benefit from it the most, she says.

"They're already ashamed of their situation. It's very difficult. And there's also peer pressure not to get involved in something like this. We need to encourage them subtly, slowly. I look forward to making that connection."

For a program that is founded on women making connections with one another, it is appropriate that the two who are leading it early on made a connection of their own.

Wylie says it was "a great surprise" when she and Alexander learned they had both graduated from Rochester. In comparing notes, they found that although they shared a Rochester education, their campus memories were literally miles apart.

Alexander was in one of the last classes to study on the old Prince Street Campus before the former College for Women merged with the men's college on the River Campus.

Activities in those days, she recalls, "were built around women and leadership development of women." Wylie, who lived in town rather than in a dorm, was more involved in the off-campus community during her college days.

No matter what the differences, Wylie says, the two "share a deep fondness for the University of Rochester, for the friendships and relationships built there, and for the quality of the education we received."

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