With the Tiger Mentoring Program crossing the midway point for the current school year, many mentors gathered to be recognized for their service, receive a mentor training refresher and grow together through networking. After introducing fellow members of the Tiger Mentoring Program Advisory Council, Rich Detrick, introduced each of the 39 mentors according to their years of service, ranging from one year to six. While there were many people who have been mentors since the beginning or for several years, the largest contingency was first-year mentors, which proves the program is growing.
Angie Ward, Spencer Middle School Guidance Counselor and Tiger Mentoring Program Coordinator, welcomed everyone and shared some of the program highlights from the past year. She also discussed the exciting opportunities on the horizon. Activities planned in addition to the weekly mentoring sessions will include pottery and canvas painting and a year-end picnic for mentors, mentees and their families. Mentor, advisory council member and mentor trainer, Amy Simpson, who helped start the program, conducted a refresher training course during the luncheon, and as a certified program with the Iowa Mentoring Partnership, Simpson provides the refresher annually. Mentors also had the chance to network and share best practices during their time together.
When asked about the event, Ward said, “We are happy to be here today to recognize the mentors who volunteer weekly and to thank them for all that they do for our kids. Students are very excited each week when they know their mentor is coming to see them.” Mentors work with their mentees only during the school day, unless there is a whole group activity planned, and they really enjoy the program as well. “Mentors tell me all the time how much they enjoy mentoring, but when they are with their student, you can really see that they genuinely enjoy their time, and they look forward to it each week,” said Ward. “It is hard to believe it has been six years already, and some of the six-year mentors have had two or three students. If students have graduated from the program and moved on to high school, mentors get rematched with a new student. They are always game to take on a new mentee because they believe in the program.”
Mentors do all sorts of activities with the kids including: crafts, art projects, shooting hoops, cooking, playing air hockey and putting together model cars, to name a few. Goals are sometimes set to work on improving grades, attendance and behavior, all in an effort to help students be successful at school. “They may talk about things going on in the student’s life, and while they aren’t counselors, they do establish a friendship, and having that positive relationship is so important for the kids,” added Ward.
Ward believes Tiger Mentoring is building a bridge between the community and the school. “We love having people from the community come to the school, and now we have nearly 40 adults who come in on a weekly basis to see what is happening.” In addition to the mentors, there are other community partners including businesses, organizations and private donors that completely fund the program and make everything possible. Since donations run through the Spencer Community School Foundation, all donations are tax deductible which can be an added advantage to those interested in donating to the program. For more information about donating or becoming a mentor, contact Angie Ward at Spencer Middle School.