West Point schools seeking mentors

Josh Presley
News Reporter

The West Point Consolidated School District (WPCSD) is on the lookout for community members willing to volunteer some time with students in need of mentoring.
WPCSD Community Relations Director Nancy Young said the district was looking for mentors to spend about 30 minutes per week with students.
"We need our mentors to be consistent with students," Young said. "The worst thing we can do is introduce another adult into a child's life who won't be there for them."
She said the mentoring program was for students of all ages who are in need of a little extra attention.
"In addition to increasing a student's self esteem, we've seen that schools with mentoring programs can have higher graduation rates, and the kids have better attitudes about school," she said. "As for the mentors, it can increase their leadership skills and their job satisfaction."
Young said the mentor's responsibilities would include engaging in a positive relationship, communicating and providing attention to the student, as well as providing stability and leadership.
Church Hill Elementary School Guidance Counselor Leslie Scott said the school district has had a mentoring program for about 10 years.
"The program was huge when I first came here," Scott said. "It seemed like we would have one or two leave each year after that, to the point that we have many more mentees than we have mentors."
She said the school district had many children in need of positive role models outside of just their teachers.
"Some kids may have lost one or both of their parents, or maybe their parents work two jobs and don't have a lot of available time," Scott said. "Boys may not have any male role models in their lives and girls may not have any female role models. It helps some of these kids to have that extra adult figure providing support and attention."
Church Hill Principal Cindy Donahoo said she'd seen success from the mentoring program in the past, and encouraged community members to donate their time.
"So many of our community members have something to offer our students," Donahoo said in a previous interview. "It isn't about tutoring or academics, necessarily. Sometimes kids - and adults, as well - need to be noticed. They want someone to acknowledge if they're doing a good job."
Young said mentoring sessions would be held on school grounds, which would ensure greater safety and put less pressure on either party.
"If a mentor has a certain age, gender or area of interest, they can request that," she said. "It's not just about reading to kids, though that's also a great activity. A mentor might have a specific skill or hobby that they can share with a student."
Young said community members interested in becoming mentors should contact her by Oct. 16, and would be required to undergo a background check. She said she would be hosting an hour-long training session for potential mentors at noon Oct. 21 at the West Point Career and Technology Center, with a catered lunch from the Culinary Arts program at the CTC.
She said the actual mentoring program would begin as soon as possible after the training session, and would run through the end of the school year in May.
"If some of our business owners could allow some of their employees that 30 minutes a week to be a mentor, that would be an immense help," Young said. "Mentoring is not just investing in a child's future, but in the community's future, as well."
For more information on how to become a mentor, contact Young at 494-4242 or email nancy.young@westpoint.k12.ms.us