The Storm Lake School District has partnered with CommUNITY Education and the Prevention Department of Northwest Iowa Alcohol and Drug Treatment Unit to develop a mentoring program which benefits students as well as those who give of their time to serve as the role models.
The first mentors were recognized and thanked during a special event organized by Pat Cowan, CommUNITY Education, and Cindy Johnson, NWIADTU, for the time they share with young students once a week during the Elementary Tornado Academy afterschool program.
Making the commitment are Tom Daniels, Darcy Norwood, Marjorie Urban, Colette Pena, Linda Steinberg, Barb Stammer, John Call, Todd Hudspeth and Dawn Sittig.
A great of work was done throughout the school year to bring the program to life. First, volunteers were needed to serve as mentors; five weeks were needed for them to be approved as a background check was completed.
It wasn't until nearly the the end of the school year that they were matched up with students. They have all made the commitment to return next school year to continue meeting with the students ages kindergarten through fourth grade they were matched with.
The mentors meet with the students during the after school program. The mentoring relationship is mutual commitment to friendship that develops through these meetings. They have the chance to talk, discuss school progress, work on projects, review for a test or play games.
Barb Stammer said she decided to become a mentor for several reasons. Retired from teaching, her grandchildren live a great distance away and there are no kids in the neighborhood. "It's nice to be around the kids again," she said. She was matched with a first grade boy. "I enjoyed working with him."
John Call, city administrator, was concerned in the beginning that the match wasn't working. But after a few meetings, the student came around and asked him why he had to leave. "The mentor gets just as much out of this as the mentees," he commented. "I'm sold on the program - 100 percent." (Even if it means playing a game of Twister which he was asked to do by his mentee!) "I plan on asking others to get involved."
Colette Pena, a Hy-Vee employee, said she wanted to "get out there and help kids," With no kids of her own, she has enjoyed the experience and looks forward to a whole school year of being there for her mentee.
Todd Hudspeth is also sold on the program and is available to talk to any groups about the benefits of the program and bring in more adults to serve as role models for the young students.
Who can be a mentor? A person with a genuine interest in making a positive difference in a student's life. It is someone who will help the student develop to his or her full potential and offer support, guidance and friendship.
How can someone become a mentor? By filling out an application obtainable from CommUNITY Education or the prevention department of NWIADTU, consenting to reference and background check, setting up an interview date, attending orientation and training sessions, be introduced to the mentee and honoring your commitment to attend regular meetings with the young student.
There is no cost involved in being a mentor. The focus of the program is quality time spent together in the school setting.
It has been researched and shown that a mentoring program can help increase the self-esteem of the mentees, increase academic success, increase positive social interaction, reduce the risk that the young people will use illegal drugs or alcohol, and reduce the risk that students will skip school.
Because the background checks take up to five weeks to complete, it is suggested that interested persons begin the application process as soon as possible so that once school begins in the fall, a match-up may be made and the two may enjoy a full school year of friendship.
For more information or for an application, contact Pat CommUNITY Education - 732-5711 - or Cindy at NWIADTU - 749-5169.