A new mentoring program is being established in coordination with Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins and Hillsboro City Schools, and Collins hopes it expands to include other Highland County school districts.
The Pals with a Purpose Mentor Program “envisions a community in which higher achieving, at-risk youth experience nurturing one-to-one relationships and community support,” according to material supplied by Collins at Tuesday’s Hillsboro Rotary meeting.
“Each year, first grade teachers will recommend 25 to 30 children who are high-achieving, low SES (socioeconomic status) students who may have other risk factors,” according to the program description.
Participating mentors will be paired with first or second-grade elementary children who will follow students through high school, visiting their mentee at least twice a month at the school and having activity kits to choose from to promote college and career readiness.
The focus of the elementary curriculum kits is character building, manners and hygiene, according to the mentor program literature. In middle school, the focus is college and career exploration, creating a resume and job placement if desired. In high school, the focus turns to understanding credit and budgeting, SAT/ACT prep, applying for college and grants, and completing the FAFSA.
Collins said she was motivated to help establish the program after a 15-year-old was charged with cooking methamphetamine.
“A 15-year-old should not be cooking meth, or addicted to meth,” said Collins. “We’ve got to do something to get our kids back on track.”
Working with Jim Smith, superintendent of Hillsboro City Schools, and Jessica Jordan, a second grade teacher at Hillsboro Elementary, Collins said the program will kick off next year shortly after the Highland County Fair concludes. By then, she hopes qualified mentors who apply and pass a background check will be in place.
“Some of these kids just need someone to tell them they’ve done a good job, someone to be excited about what they’re doing,’ said Collins.
Collins said that after the program gets underway at Hillsboro schools, it can be expanded to include the county’s other four school districts.
According to a mentor job description, mentors will:
• Take the lead in supporting a young person through an ongoing, one-to-one relationship.
• Serve as a positive role model and friend.
• Build the relationship by planning and participating in activities together.
• Strive for mutual respect.
• Build self-esteem and motivation.
• Help set goals and work toward accomplishing them.
Benefits will include “personal fulfillment through contribution to the community and individuals” and “satisfaction in helping someone mature, progress and achieve goals,” among others, according to program information.
Those interested in mentoring will be asked to complete a lengthy application and submit their fingerprints, which the school is handling free of charge, said Smith.
The application process includes a written application, criminal history check including state, child abuse and neglect registry, and sexual offender registry. Participants will be required to attend a two-hour mentor training program.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.