The Spencer Middle School library was filled with representatives from several businesses and organizations to receive recognition for their support of the Tiger Mentoring Program (TMP). The coordinator of the program, Angie Ward, welcomed the group and explained a bit about the importance of the program and how the support is directed. “Mentoring at its core guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in day to day challenges and makes them feel like they matter. It is great for the adults too. It brings very strong ties between our school and our kids and the community. I have met so many good people through this program that I probably would not have known if we didn’t get this going,” said Ward.
While Ward’s role is to help make matches with mentors and mentees, and make sure the program runs smoothly during the day, the program is governed by an advisory council. Mentoring started at the middle school in 2012, and in 2014 shifted from the original TeamMates program to TMP. “We are a certified program with the Iowa Mentoring Partnership. They support us. We report to them. There is a network where individuals can sign up to be a mentor, and the Iowa Mentoring Partnership can get those people get connected to the school,” explained Ward.
The school has a goal of reaching about 10% of the student body through mentoring, which would equate to about 40-45 students. Currently there are 39 matches, which is the most ever, but there is always room for more mentors and donors. The program is funded solely by businesses, organizations and private donors, and the cost is roughly $100 per match per year. Ward said, “Our ability to sustain and grow relies on the continued, generous support from our donors. The funds help purchase supplies for activities for mentors and mentees to enjoy during their time together as well as for special events. At the end of the year we have a picnic with families so they can interact with the mentors and wrap up the year of the program.”
Donors received a plaque and they included: Hy-Noon Kiwanis, Jaycees, Kiwanis After 5, Farmers Savings Bank of Fostoria, Rotary, Builders Club, Spencer Community School Foundation, Spencer Action Club, Daybreakers Kiwanis, Northwest Bank, and Tracy and Jen Small. After a group photo, donors took the opportunity to tour the mentoring room where matches meet to see how some of the donations have been applied.
Current mentor and representative of Daybreakers Kiwanis, Keith Bress, received the Award for Mentoring Excellence in 2015, representing himself and the TMP. Receipt of this award is a testament to the program and how much it means to the kids. His mentors past and present had lots of good things to say, and when asking Bress about the experience, he shared, “I have been a mentor since the program started about 5 years ago and have had several different kids during my time as a mentor due to kids moving or graduating from the program by moving to the high school.” Even though the program technically ends when students finish their 8th grade year, the bonds that are made have created lasting relationships with several of Bress’s mentees. Bress said that the students do change from beginning to end, and while some of that is probably due to maturity over the three years, Bress hopes that he is positively influencing his youth. He ended with a final word of advice, “Be a mentor!”