Florida’s Department of Education is out with a video, asking residents to mentor a student in their local school district. Such programs are alive and well in the western Panhandle.
The “Why I Mentor” video highlights what just one hour each week can make in helping a child succeed in school and, ultimately, in life. In Santa Rosa County, Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick says they orchestrate a mentoring program in a couple of different ways.
“First of all, you have mentoring from teacher to student,” Wyrosdick said. “We have some official mentoring programs that work through our ‘Take Stock in Children’ programs. Those programs are one-on-one initiatives between someone in the community and someone in the school system, which is mentoring a child one-on-one.”
There are roughly 10,000 volunteers serving as academic mentors in the Santa Rosa County District, including a significant number of parents and other community members, who say they want to give their time.
“What really is required more than anything else is a desire to want to take an individual student and make a difference in their life,” said Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas, who says his district has a stand-alone office, which is dedicated to recruiting and coordinating mentors and mentoring programs.
“The title of the office is ‘Community Involvement,’ so they’re involved in many aspects of trying to engage and involve our community,” Thomas said.
When one thinks of “mentors” and “mentoring,” often the image of a low-income or minority child comes to mind. But Wyrosdick says a little outside help and direction benefits all students. And mentors can come in almost all ages. Besides adult volunteers, Wyrosdick says in many cases older students are mentoring younger ones – mostly through high school service clubs.
“Your National Honor Societies, your Beta Clubs will mentor new students to the school,” said Wyrosdick. “That’s a powerful opportunity to both expose the student to what the school is all about, and also give students an opportunity to be the mentor.”
Mentors can come from all walks of life, regardless of education and background. Escambia Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says about the only prerequisite is a passion to make a difference in a student’s life.
More information on becoming a mentor in the Escambia County District is available by calling the Community Involvement Office at 469-5676. In Santa Rosa, the number is 983-5000.