Smack­over-Nor­phlet look­ing to cre­ate men­tor­ship pro­gram

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Michael Shine Staff Writer

The Smack­over-Nor­phlet School Dis­trict is look­ing for vol­un­teers to serve as a men­tor to stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly at-risk stu­dents.

Jen­nifer Lee, cur­ricu­lum direc­tor with the dis­trict, said the pro­gram has been in the works for a lit­tle while at this point. The goal of the pro­gram is to part­ner adults who have gone through train­ing with the Ea­gle Foun­da­tion, a part­ner in the project, with stu­dents based on in­ter­est/need.

“We think this is go­ing to be a very pos­i­tive thing and a very nec­es­sary thing,” Lee said. “We saw that there’s a lot of stu­dents who, when they come to school, they bring a lot of stuff from home with them. We rec­og­nize that the school is charged with work­ing on the aca­demics, but how can we fo­cus on the aca­demics when our stu­dents have so­cial and emo­tional is­sues?”

The pro­gram, which is now be­ing called the Bucka­roo Adults In­vest­ing by Men­tor­ing Stu­dents (AIMS) Pro­gram, is de­signed to be a com­mu­nity-based men­tor­ing pro­gram that be­gins in ele­men­tary school that tar­gets but isn’t lim­ited to at-risk stu­dents.

The pro­gram is open to adults through­out the com­mu­nity, re­gard­less of ex­pe­ri­ence as a men­tor be­fore this.

Lee said those in­ter­ested can talk to the school dis­trict and will be ex­pected to at­tend train­ing through the Ea­gle Foun­da­tion be­fore be­ing as­signed a student to men­tor. The Ea­gle Foun­da­tion will also pro­vide sup­port to vol­un­teers while they’re men­tor­ing.

The school dis­trict will ad­min­is­ter a sur­vey to stu­dents as a way to iden­tify stu­dents who might ben­e­fit from a men­tor­ship pro­gram. On the adult side, the Ea­gle Foun­da­tion will ad­min­is­ter an in­ter­est as­sess­ment to those who have agreed to be men­tors and help the school dis­trict part­ner men­tors and stu­dents based on in­ter­est and need.

Lee said the men­tal health of stu­dents is a con­cern for the dis­trict and the AIMS Pro­gram came out of try­ing to fig­ure out ways to help stu­dents who may be at risk due to ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences.

Con­cern for the men­tal health of stu­dents across the state was also a large point made by the School Safety Com­mis­sion’s fi­nal re­port that came out the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber. The re­port en­cour­aged dis­tricts to con­duct reg­u­lar cli­mate sur­veys, use the sur­vey to ad­just plans, train fac­ulty and staff to iden­tify at-risk be­hav­ior, cre­ate a be­hav­ioral threat as­sess­ment team and a cri­sis re­sponse team, and work to cre­ate a pos­i­tive cli­mate by de­ter­ring bul­ly­ing

and pro­mot­ing pos­i­tive peer re­la­tion­ships.

An­other part of the AIMS Pro­gram, Lee said, is work­ing to get lead­ers in the high school in­volved with the younger stu­dents. This part of the pro­gram will work to iden­tify lead­ers within the high school who can serve as pos­i­tive role mod­els, train them through the Ea­gle Foun­da­tion and find times for them to vol­un­teer in the ele­men­tary and mid­dle schools.

“A lot of our high school stu­dents are very healthy stu­dents,” Lee said. “They come from good homes. We know that our chil­dren look up to these stu­dents. They look up to the ath­letes, our young girls look up to the cheer­lead­ers and want to be like them one day. So let’s let them. We are go­ing to pro­vide train­ing to those student lead­ers and try­ing to look for op­por­tu­ni­ties where they can men­tor and just be a part of the mid­dle school and ele­men­tary school. It’s sim­ple things like open­ing car doors or go­ing and read­ing to a class when they have a team jer­sey on.”

The last part of what Lee called a three-part pro­gram is the Par­ent Re­source Guide that the school dis­trict started col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion for in De­cem­ber.

The guide is de­signed for par­ents who need help find­ing after-school or sum­mer pro­grams for their stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in. Through a form on the dis­trict’s blog and con­tact­ing lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions, the dis­trict is look­ing to cre­ate this list so that there’s one place par­ents can go to if they’re look­ing for ac­tiv­i­ties their stu­dents can par­tic­i­pate in after school or dur­ing breaks. Some of the ex­am­ples Lee gave of pro­grams in­clude scout­ing groups, Camp Fire, com­mu­nity ath­let­ics, sum­mer read­ing pro­grams, tu­tor­ing, fine arts, sum­mer break­fast and lunch pro­grams, and faith-based pro­grams. Lee said the school is aware of some op­tions for stu­dents, but want more or­ga­ni­za­tions and more in­for­ma­tion to be in­cluded in the com­piled list. The dis­trict is still tak­ing more in­for­ma­tion and or­ga­ni­za­tions to add to the list as well as vol­un­teers to men­tor stu­dents.

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