Athens, Georgia – Athens is privileged to have a variety of mentor organizations helping students succeed in school and in life. One of these programs is constantly working to promote their work. The Clarke County Mentor Program is an independent, nonprofit organization, located in Athens’ Chamber of Commerce Building. Started in 1991 as joint initiative of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and the Clarke County school district, they’re still actively working to improve the lives of elementary, middle, and high school students in Athens schools.
“The Clarke County Mentor Program trains volunteers to be matched one to one with kids in the Clarke County School System,” explains program director, Paula Shilton. “What mentors are – they’re friends, they’re listeners, they’re role models, and they visit their mentee at any one of the 21 Clarke County Schools.”
She particularly likes the idea that this program acts as extra support for local students. “Families want to do the best job that they can so that their child will be successful in school and in life, but there are a lot of stresses going on in many families – working two or three jobs, not being at home – and just having another interested adult in a child’s life can make a big difference.”
Ms. Shilton sees the positive effects on the lives of mentored children everyday. In evaluation of the program, she’s found that the mentored students are doing better than non mentored students in areas like listening, getting along with others, and being respectful. National research has shown that mentored students have better school attendance, more positive attitudes toward school, and they’re more likely to complete school, at least receiving their high school diploma.
In fact, the program has a University of Georgia graduate student, Katrina Sharp, interning for them, as well as conducting research on the program’s success. Her research has shown that the mentor program has definitely had a positive impact on the students involved, especially in regards to their social behaviors.
In order to raise awareness about the program, Ms. Shilton has organized an annual fundraiser breakfast tomorrow morning at the downtown Athens Holiday Inn at 7:30 am. Unfortunately, the breakfast is full, but you can always donate money to the cause. Ms. Shilton says that all money raised goes toward staff time, recruiting, training, and supporting volunteers, and raising awareness. The program doesn’t get any government money – they operate solely off of the generosity of individuals, businesses, and foundations.
The program has 400 volunteers, but based on surveys done at local Athens schools, they still have room for up to 500 more.
“Mentors usually tell us that they get more out of the mentoring than they’re giving to the child,” says Ms. Shilton. “It’s fun. I mean, when was the last time you got to play four square or Candyland?”
Katrina is a mentor for a 5th grade boy as well as an intern, and has really enjoyed her experience. “For an hour a week, I get to play games with my mentee – we really love Monopoly – and we do puzzles together, and sometimes we take walks outside… it’s just an hour where I get to be a kid again. And I know I’m having an impact.” Katrina thinks that there is a need for both the mentor and the mentee, and that it’s such an amazing experience.
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor with the Clarke County Mentor Program, visit their website at www.clarkecountymentorprogram.org, or contact them by phone (706.549.6800) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
By: Veronica Evans
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