SUPPORTS ITS STUDENTS
It takes a village.
This phrase has never been as true as when it is applied to the Community Mentor Program established at Onekama Consolidated Schools. Through this instrumental program, qualified community members came to Onekama School weekly throughout the 2010-11 school year to help Kindergarten through third grade students reach specific academic goals.
The stated goal of the Community Mentor Program is “to ensure that all students master the basic and essential academic skills for their grade level through the involvement of available community volunteers.” The mentors worked with students both one-on-one and in small group settings with the support of the classroom teachers.
The program was spearheaded by Onekama resident Al Taylor, with support from Onekama Superintendent Kevin Hughes, and assistance from Onekama Title I teacher Shantel Niederstadt and former Onekama Title I teacher Kathy Zajac.
“We are fortunate to have many talented, intelligent, and caring individuals in our community who were interested in getting involved in our school in a real and rewarding way,” said Hughes. “This was an opportunity we could not afford to pass up.”
The community volunteers met with struggling students to help them learn sight words, review math facts, and practice their reading skills. Others read aloud to students in the classroom and assisted teachers with special projects that required extra sets of hands.
“Our teachers have been so grateful for the assistance provided by our community mentors,” said Niederstadt. “It is always difficult to make time to work with students on a one-on-basis in a traditional classroom setting. With the addition of our community mentor program, we are able to give extra attention to the students who need it the most.”
Teachers saw marked academic growth in the students involved in the mentor program. However, the rewards of the program were not one-sided, as the mentors reported their own positive outcomes.
“I did enjoy my time working both in the classroom, with all of the children, and also with those children needing extra help,” explained mentor Joan Dutton, a former elementary school teacher. “After thirty-something years of not being in a classroom it brought back great memories of simpler times, and the innocence of 5 and 6 year olds.”
A true affinity developed between the students and the volunteers. “One outstanding moment happened outside the school,” said volunteer Roger Cody. “I was parking at the library when Mrs. Lyman’s class was going in. In unison, all of them yelled out, ‘Hello Mr. Cody!’”
“It was fun to see the children warm up to me and start to line up for their chance to come out to work with me on their numbers,” added another volunteer. “One girl did not want to go with me the first day and she said, ‘I don’t know you.’ By the third month, she was taking my hand as I came into the room and leading me out the door.”
In all, 30 volunteers participated in the program this year, logging an impressive 1012 hours of time with Onekama School students. Both Hughes and Taylor believe this is only the beginning.
“Our mentoring program has had a phenomenal start,” said Hughes. “And, with the tightening of school budgets and the increasing numbers of students in our classrooms, it will be initiatives like our Community Mentor Program that will make the difference and allow us to continue to provide our students with an exceptional level of instruction.”
“My sincere hope is that we can grow this program in a significant way,” added Hughes. “We have community members willing to share their time and talents with our students. We will make it a priority to give them the support they need to reach and impact our student body.”
Hughes hopes to see the program expand to include students in the upper elementary, middle school, and high school, as well as to help students at the top of their classes extend their learning. With interested and available volunteers, many opportunities exist.
It takes a village to raise a child. Luckily for Onekama Consolidated Schools, the villages of Onekama and Arcadia are ready for the challenge.