MENTORING WORKS – the evidence!

Mentorship“Mentoring Matters”…an excerpt from “Born to Better Mississippi – Brookhaven native Laura Lee Lewis prepares for the Miss Mississippi pageant”

“Mentoring Matters” is the platform and a personal cause for Laura Lee Lewis, a local title holder and contestant in the Miss Mississippi pageant. “I’m living proof that mentoring matters,” she said.  Mentoring plays a positive role in youth’s lives, and Laura Lee hopes to bring more awareness to the ways to mentor by sharing her personal story of perseverance and the person who impacted her life.

She said one of her elementary teachers, Pam Fearn, made her feel special. Fearn told her, “Laura Lee, you’re going to be a leader someday.” Lewis never forgot that. She called the Barbara Bush Foundation to find out how she could bring the Teen Trendsetters mentoring program to Mississippi. She developed a team to help bring the program to Brookhaven, the state’s pilot city for Teen Trendsetters.

Teen Trendsetters is a one-on-one, weekly reading program where high school students mentor k-3 students. Twenty-two high school seniors volunteered their time to read to the children at Mamie Martin Elementary School. Lewis said that while visiting the elementary (school), a kindergarten student, Ella, ran up to here and thanked her for what she had done. “I love Ellen,” she said of her mentor.  Ellen was a high school student who read to Ella.  The teacher also thanked Lewis, saying that she’d seen a change in Ella since her Ellen had started mentoring her – that her confidence and reading comprehension had developed.

Lewis’ program “Mentoring Matters!” works to cultivate partnerships with a number of local, state, and national organizations in establishing more comprehensive resources for youth by offering a community-based approach to mentorship. Some of those programs include: FACE Family & Community Engagement Initiative, Boys & Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts, Mississippi Scholars and TeenTrendsetters.

CARES Mentoring Program

The CARES Mentoring program was a recipient of the 2014 Partnership Excellence Award.  The program mentored students at Lockard Elementary School in the Indianola School District.  Partners involved in the project were:  Delta Health Alliance/Indianola Promise Community, Sunflower County Retired Teachers Association, Southern Echo, Sunflower County Ministerial Alliance, Double Quik, Super Value, Planters Bank, Rasberry Men’s Club, National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, and Queen City Furniture.

Duration of partnership:  1 year                      100 Volunteers             100 Students Impacted

CARES stands for Children Are Reaching Excellence with Support. Research has shown that mentoring a child at least an hour a week makes a positive impact on academic success. That is the goal of the CARES Mentoring Program at Lockard Elementary. The CARES Program is a framework for adults in the community to provide academic, social, and emotional support to meet children’s needs. It is designed to enhance student self-esteem, to improve attendance and academics, and to provide intervention at an early age. Mentors are from faith-based groups, local businesses, and social and civic organizations.

In the CARES program, the mentor is a friend, confidant, and positive role model. Mentors are assigned to students based on student needs, mentor availability, and their shared interests. For example, a child who has a strong interest in computers may be paired with a mentor whose profession is in the instructional technology field. The mentor and child meet once a week at the school for a minimum of an hour during the school day. During their sessions, mentors and mentees talk, play games, take walks on the school grounds, and read. Occasionally, mentors help students with homework or other activities. In general, a mentor is viewed as an adult friend and not as a teacher and certainly not as a second parent. The program works because the mentor becomes another caring adult in a child’s life who is there to provide support.

Currently, CARES is a volunteer-led operation, with a program coordinator who oversees the daily engagement of mentors and mentees. Five subcommittees help administer the program — they oversee recruitment and selection, fundraising, professional development, parental engagement, and policy development. Individuals from the community who are interested in becoming CARES mentors are initially interviewed by the program coordinator. Candidates must clear background and reference checks, and once they are approved to participate, they must complete a training session and an orientation session.

The program was first implemented in March 2013 with 22 mentors and mentees. Within a year, the school noticed improvements in absenteeism, behavior and course performance. From fall to winter, 83 percent of CARES mentees improved reading scores and 94 percent improved math scores. The CARES Mentoring Program has created new opportunities for community involvement and support at Lockard Elementary School, and the program has grown to include 100 mentors and mentees.