Mentoring can change child's life
BY CINDI HEMM
Thursday, January 26, 2012
1/26/12 at 4:05 AM
I invite you to visit our school any Thursday or Friday at lunch time. You will see many adults with children in our halls. They are having lunch, reading, playing games, talking and, in general, having fun.
These dedicated adults are mentors to 230 of our students. Our halls are packed with these volunteers who come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and religions each and every week of the school year. I truly don't know who benefits more, the adults or the children.
I have had the privilege of serving as principal of Eugene Field Elementary since 2003. When I first arrived, the mentoring program consisted of 30 to 40 wonderful volunteers from First United Methodist Church, which is located in downtown Tulsa. It has grown and grown over the years to what we are today. I often say, "It is dangerous to be my friend or family member, as I will ask you to help our school."
Our students come from generational poverty and need one person outside their families who will care enough about them to come each week and spend 30 minutes having lunch.
Our students need someone who will ask them questions like, "What did you make on your spelling test this week? How are you feeling today? Can I help you with your project or homework? Let's play a game, and I can explain the rules."
These are commonplace conversations in the lives of the middle-class and upper-class families, but these conversations get lost in communities of generational poverty. The parents of our students deal with scarcity of food and lack of jobs, as well as the need to keep their children safe from the violent world of drugs, alcohol and abuse. In the midst of these challenges, our school reaches out to the greater community.
There are children in all our communities who need our help - and not just children of poverty. All children need positive adult role models who will provide them with focused time and attention.
Volunteering 30 minutes doesn't sound like a lot of time but it is very, very difficult to make this commitment a priority. In our fast-paced world, it is often forgotten that there are students who have never played cards before, let alone a game of Connect Four or Chutes and Ladders. These practices are common for those children of well-educated parents who understand that playing a game isn't about the game, but teaching a child that there are rules you must follow. There is a winner and a loser in each game. There is strategy as well as understanding numerical value as we all read information in order to play.
"Invest in the Future: Mentor a Child" is the theme for National Mentoring Month in January. I have seen firsthand in my school how mentoring can impact a child's self-esteem, relationships, school attendance and academic performance. I've seen a child's face light up when his mentor arrives to spend time together. Mentoring is truly an investment in a child's future and in our future as a community.
Please consider being a mentor in your local school. Helping your fellow man can start with mentoring a child. You could be the person who encourages that young person to graduate from high school and college!
To learn more about mentoring opportunities, log on to tulsaworld.com/okmentors or call the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Boren Mentoring Initiative at (405) 236-0006.
Cindy Hemm, principal of Eugene Field Elementary School in Tulsa, is the winner of the 2011 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in School Administration and the author of "Miracle on Southwest Boulevard: Eugene Field Elementary."
Cindi Hemm: Mentoring is truly an investment in a child's future.