January has come and gone and because of the tireless efforts of the many Boerne ISD educators who worked overtime to promote National Mentoring Month (NMM), several at-risk students will likely enjoy the benefits of mentorship for many months to come.
“Mentorship is one of the most important events our nation and the community of Boerne honors each January during NMM,” said Elizabeth Nolen, Parent & Community Involvement Coordinator for BISD. “This event highlights the need for Americans to volunteer. This year, our theme was Invest in the Future: Mentor a Child, which communicated the long-term benefits of quality mentorship and the needs of young people, mentors and their communities.”
In 2006, the Boerne ISD (BISD) identified more than 600 youth as being “at-risk” of falling victim to poor attendance and performance, or dropping out of school before graduation. The following year, the BISD implemented a research-based prevention and early intervention strategy: mentorship. Since its inception, the program has helped several hundred students.
According to Nolen, the investment of time, money and resources dedicated to helping at-risk students is well worth the effort. The Boerne ISD Mentor Program has been very successful because of the many contributions made by volunteers in and around Boerne who are able and willing to make a difference. Four-year Cordillera Ranch resident Tom Spitsnaugle is such a volunteer.
“These kids need help. You can make a difference,” says Spitsnaugle. “They need role models, and they do not have them at home. I believe it helps the student, therefore, why would I not do it!?”
The mission of the mentorship program is to build character in youth by facilitating an ongoing relationship with a caring adult who provides support, guidance and assistance on a one-to-one basis. A mentor is a friend, a role model, and an advocate. The mentorship program has been truly successful; it continues to thrive and has served a few hundred at-risk students who would otherwise fall victim to poor attendance and performance, dropping out of school before graduation, never pursuing the possibility of a college education and other less than favorable outcomes.
National statistics show that 85 percent of the youth in prison and 63 percent of youth suicides come from fatherless homes. Additionally, children from single parent households are five times more likely to be adults living in poverty. In support of the BISD mentorship program and the growing need for volunteers, Boerne Mayor Mike Schultz not only calls adults to mentor, but also for more men and local businesses to become involved in this type of relationship.
“The number of male students added to the program increases each school year,” Nolen said. “To date, 29 male students are on the waiting list. Men are encouraged to walk along-side a young man, a boy who wants to be a hero and has big dreams. Mayor Schultz has recognized the value of mentorship and I hope the rest of the community will also.”
Richard Drum, program volunteer, says, “You can influence young man at a crucial time in his life. You are needed!” Drum and his wife, Jane, treasure and enjoy time with their students weekly.
The mission of the program is to build character in youth by facilitating an ongoing relationship with a caring adult who provides support, guidance, and assistance on a one-to-one basis who is a friend, role model, and advocate. The goal is to build and nurture a relationship that is based upon trust, support, and encouragement. Through mentoring, students and adults are more connected to each other, school and community; hence, building a stronger and healthier world. Mentors are parents, grandparents, retirees, business leaders, professionals, law enforcement officers, artists, musicians, friends, relatives, and your next door neighbor.
While the expectation of the program is not to tutor or teach, past evaluation measures reveal participants showed an increase in core academic subjects as measured by grade point average, and a decrease in number of unexcused school absences. Mentoring works!
BISD volunteers pledge to meet with a student weekly for a one hour session during the school day for one school year. Upon application, background check and character reference approval, applicants are invited to a one-hour training session then carefully matched with a student based upon shared interests, locations and schedules. Program staff members provide volunteers with resources, ongoing support, and guidance for a successful experience.
To learn more about mentoring one of the many at-risk students at BISD, visit www.ablementor.org.
By Bethany Heinesh