Mentors share at mentor reception

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, February 5, 2011

Everyone has had someone who has mentored, coached or influenced him in his life.

“These were people who were interested in us, who wanted us to achieve and reach our potential,” said Bethanne Bradshaw, spokeswoman for Suffolk Public Schools.

Mentoring: Melodie Griffin, principal of Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, poses for a picture with Caitlyn Baker, a fifth-grade student she mentors. The two enjoy talking and watching basketball together.

Last week, the school division held a Mentor Appreciation Reception in the King’s Fork Middle School cafeteria to honor volunteer mentors in the public school system.

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“Relationships are very important for success in life,” Bradshaw said, stressing the importance of mentors.

The reception honored those people who have acted as mentors in the school system, Bradshaw said. It also gave current mentors the opportunity to meet, celebrate and discuss best practices.

Bradshaw said mentors often benefit from being able to discuss what they are doing well and ask each other for advice, so the mentors were allowed plenty of time for discussion during the event.

“This was a way to thank them, but also a way for them to meet each other and learn from each other to expand their arsenal of how to help a child,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw said the school system is always recruiting for their mentor program. Training is provided as needed.

“We are looking for somebody who has the heart to help a kid and has the willingness, the time and commitment to listen,” she said.

Bradshaw said the school system is looking for life coaches who can help kids get to where they need and want to go in life, rather than a person who wants the child to turn out just like them.

Though the role of a mentor can be very structured, it doesn’t have to be, Bradshaw said. Mentors can share their talents and time to make a difference in the life of a student.

Shakina Teel, teacher’s assistant at Hillpoint Elementary school, uses her talents and expertise in dance to mentor children at her school, while parent Anthony Wilkerson became a mentor to support children in his neighborhood.

Steve Smith, assistant principal at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, mentors fourth- and fifth-grade boys in a program he began with physical education teacher Richard Linyear. “I saw there was a need, especially with third-, fourth- and fifth-grade boys,” Smith said.

“I saw there was a need that I could fill with some of the students who could use a guy role model they could talk to. There are a lot of male students and only a few male teachers or staff in the building.”

“We are still looking for more mentors,” said Denise Singleton, counselor at Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

“If you want to make a difference in the life of a child, you can benefit as much from giving as they can benefit from receiving your time and expertise and your advice,” Bradshaw said.

Mentors are asked to commit to a half hour or more a week during school hours to mentor a student. Teachers, staff, parents and community members can take part in this program. For more information, contact Bethanne Bradshaw at 925-6752 or your neighborhood school.