Highland News Leader

Mentors sought to help at-risk youth

Do you have 30 minutes a week that you could give to a middle school student to be a positive influence in their life? If so, Highland Middle School is currently participating in a program sponsored by the Madison County Regional Office of Education.

“It’s nice to have somebody who is willing to give up 30 minutes a week to come in and talk to these students,” HMS Principal Erick Baer said. “We are excited about the new program and the benefits we can get ... and it’s free, that’s the best part of it.”

The GIVE 30 mentoring program is intended to provide at-risk youth with positive support in their lives. The program is designed for students who have been identified in their school as someone who might benefit from a mentor based on need, and civic leaders are being sought to become GIVE 30 mentors.

According to the Madison County Superintendent of Schools Robert Daiber, who mentors three students, the Regional Office of Education just celebrated the first anniversary of the program and has already started to see high success.

“Most kids are very receptive and they develop good relationships with their mentors,” Daiber said. “They are really looking for someone in their life and that has really been the high degree of success.”

The mentor is carefully paired with a student in which they meet with 30-minutes per week to engage in an outlined dialogue to involve the student in a discussion. Mentors are expected to speak about school performance and issues the students experience at school, at home, and within the community. Mentors may also assist with school work, offer to read an article or a book with them, or share personal experiences that would influence the student in a positive way.

How the program works

The Regional Office of Education is currently soliciting civic leaders to identify/encourage interested individuals to become a GIVE 30 mentor. The individual will contact the ROE for a criminal background check. This process will not involve a fee.

All clean applicants will complete an interest form to be shared with participating school districts. The mentor will be asked to give 30 minutes a week to meet with the student they will be asked to mentor. A guide will be provided to each mentor as an outline to engage in discussion with the student.

Upon the need of a mentor, the individual will be contacted and placed in communication with the respective building principal. The principal will meet with the mentor and decide on an agreeable meeting time for the student and the mentor. Such an arrangement may be made around a typical lunch schedule. The duration of the mentoring experience may be short term or may continue. In either case, monitoring and progress reports on the relationships between will need to be reviewed.

According to Daiber, the program currently has about 50 mentors, one of which works at the middle school, which has been participating in the program for three weeks. Three other HMS mentors will also be coming to the school after they are trained, according to Baer.

Who may be a mentor?

Any adult 21 years of age or older may apply to participate in the GIVE 30 program. The participants must have a clean criminal background and be willing to abide by the school policy guidelines set by the respective school district.

All GIVE 30 mentors will need to complete a short in-service to learn about the mentoring program and the outlined expectations. Likewise, the mentors will be asked to agree to a schedule to meet with assigned students.

All applicants will be screened by the Regional Office of Education prior to being referred to specific school districts.

What are mentor expectations?

All GIVE 30 mentors are expected to give 30 minutes a week to mentor an identified at risk youth. The mentors are to present themselves in a positive way to the student. The key is to foster a positive impression to live a good, respectful life.

“We’re trying to show young people that adults care about them,” Daiber said. “We want students who participate to feel good about themselves; we want them to foster respect, and we work with them to identify a meaningful career and we want them overall to have a feeling of success.”

The mentor needs to be a role model figure for the student. Mentors are expected to engage in dialogue with the youth to discuss school performance, issues at school, issues at home, and issues in the community. Mentors may assist with homework, offer to read an article about an event, or share some career experience. Mentors are expected to keep the relationship professional and at no time exchange emails or social media contact information that could lead to suspicious out-of-school activity. Individuals will mentor students of the same gender so greater commonality in discussion may take place.

Contact information

If you have 30 minutes a week to help to positively influence a student at Highland Middle School, contact Dr. Erick Baer, HMS principal, or Liz Weder, HMS assistant principal at (618) 651-8800, or the Madison County Regional Office of Education at 618-296-4530 for more information.

“I think it is one of the most important things we can do with today’s youth to help curtail crime, drug abuse and violence,” Daiber said. “So anyone that is at home, when they hear those reports on television about teens shooting each other, teen robberies and vandalism and think ‘What I can do?’ this is what they can do.”

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