To wrap up National Mentoring Month, I thought it might be interesting to hear what some students have to say about having mentors in their lives. We asked students from one of the district’s elementary schools to fill us in:
Q: How has your mentor helped you do better in school?
A: They give you a break from school. When you go with them to the library for lunch I’m ready to learn when I go back to class.
A: They are always checking on me asking me how my behavior was this week and did I study hard.
A: They always encourage me to do my best.
A: My mentor helps me understand what I didn’t get in class.
Q: What’s the best part of having a mentor?
A: My mentor makes me feel special.
A: My mentor teaches me new games that I didn’t know how to play before.
A: The best part of having a mentor is hanging with them and having lunch.
A: The parties are the best!
Q: Give me one word that means the same thing as mentor.
Our list is a little longer: caring, kind, helpful, giving, encouraging, role model, listener, advisor, friend, advocate, guide, teacher… You get the picture. To find out more about how you can be all of that and more, check out our volunteer opportunities at www.austinpartners.org/volunteer.
Pat Abrams, Executive Director
Being a mentor, when done well, can inspire a child to consider the impossible; like flying a helicopter. At Reilly Elementary School, a unique partnership with the Department of Public Safety is doing just that. Each year more than 85 DPS employees are signing up to mentor students in weekly, one-on-one meetings. They are role models, trusted advisors, and adult friends. They are quiet heroes, who, like pebbles tossed in a pond, never see the ripples they make, touching the lives of students, families and the community where they serve. That is, until they host their annual Helicopter Party!
One way that the Reilly/DPS mentor partnership candemonstrate its impact is through its yearly Helicopter Party. Visible to everyone who attends the party is the commitment and love these mentors have for their students. Each May DPS employees plan a party as a final mentoring event for the year. They design t-shirts and invite their students and some of the school staff who works with the mentor program. Excitement at the school is visible as the day approaches. On the day of the party, the mentors walk together from the neighboring DPS offices to the school to pick up their charges. Then the students and their mentors, along with some of the teachers, staff and administrators walk over to the fields by the DPS offices to celebrate. Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and yes, a helicopter are on display, inviting the children to explore and make pretend. Food, games, and balloons round out the carnival-like atmosphere.
But this is much more than a play-date. Eyes wide with wonder, these young students witness firsthand what their mentors do outside of their visits to their school; they learn of their mentors’ commitment to the care and protection of their community. And because many of these volunteers have been serving at Reilly for multiple years, these students go home knowing that their mentor will return in the fall and that he or she is someone who can be counted on.
Austin Partners in Education humbly thanks all of our mentors at every school. This year, more than 600 mentors are supporting nearly 900 children. Still, with 87,000 students in Austin ISD, wouldn’t it be wonderful if each child who wanted a mentor could have one? We encourage you to consider volunteering as a mentor each week at an AISD school. For more information or to register as a mentor, please visit our website at www.austinpartners.org/volunteer .
School Connections Program Manager
On January 3rd, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation designating January as National Mentoring Month. “Every day, mentors help young Americans face the challenges of growing into adulthood. By setting a
positive example and sharing their time, knowledge, and experience, mentors play an essential role in preparing our Nation’s youth for a bright future. During National Mentoring Month, we celebrate the contributions of all those who cultivate a supportive environment for the next generation, and we recommit to expanding mentorship opportunities across our country,” he said.
Mentoring doesn’t require special skills, just an ability to listen and to offer friendship, guidance and encouragement to a young person. There is solid evidence that effective mentoring programs can improve academic behaviors, reduce the incidence of substance use and lower drop-out rates.
Austin Partners in Education currently has 800 mentors serving Austin students. Mentors receive training on ways to engage their students and facilitate a durable relationship that positively impacts students’ attitudes about school and their future.
Today, on Martin Luther King Day, won’t you commit to becoming a mentor for an Austin student?
It’s the first of January, and the hot topic around our table is resolutions. Almost everyone seems to have some form of health and fitness goal as part of their plan for the coming year – start or increase exercise, eat healthier, lose weight – you know the list.
But check this out: research has proven that volunteering can produce lower rates of heart disease and depression. It can even help you live longer!
You can read out more about this research here.
As you make your plans for improving your quality of life in 2012, consider registering to be a Classroom Coach, Step-Up tutor, mentor or general school volunteer. APIE is still seeking over 150 volunteers to support students in reading and math. Give just one hour a week. It’s good for your health!