Retired teacher helps restart Hurst Middle School mentoring program

Just two weeks after retiring as a teacher from Harry Hurst Middle School, Karen Naquin was back helping to revive the school’s mentoring program.

“I couldn’t just walk away from teaching after 35 years,” Naquin said. “I wanted to see if I could continue mentoring children and focus more attention on that. The counselors feel the same way.”

So does her husband, Dennis Naquin, president of the St. Charles Parish School Board, who mentored a child who lost both parents – one who was incarcerated and the other who died.

“Mentoring is near and dear to my heart,” he said.

Naquin’s assistance made a difference in this child’s life, who overcame his obstacles to get a scholarship and attend college.

This is the kind of difference that his wife hopes to make at the middle school.

If all goes well, Karen Naquin, along with counselors Megan Duplesis and Tina Chaisson, will have the program running again by January. The three brought it back, after being gone two years, and will run it as one of several mentoring programs in the St. Charles Parish School System.

The counselors will especially assist in identifying children who need mentors.

“We’re hoping they become successful through education, but sometimes activities make a difference in their lives,” Naquin said.

Until then, the job is finding people will to serve as mentors.

A flyer is being made to help, meetings scheduled and parenting conferences attended, all aimed at educating the community on the importance of the role of a mentor. How many children the program will assist depends on how many people volunteer as mentors.

“I think I really need to establish what we’re doing before we reach out to everybody,” Karen Naquin said. “What we really need now are people who want to give back to the community and help a child in need.”

Mentoring is more than tutoring a child on a subject.

“This program is beyond tutoring,” Naquin said. “It’s not something that we expect to sit down with a child and do math. It’s a possibility, but they may want to talk about their background or need a Big Brother or a Big Sister.”

There are many children who come from different backgrounds who need help, she said. It’s important they see role models who show them they can be successful no matter the challenge.

“It doesn’t mean you don’t have excellent parents or a guardian, but sometimes a child needs someone else to talk to,” Naquin said.  “We’re looking for positive role models who support giving back to the community.”

The program will run from January to May, twice a month, during school hours.

Although some people might say this will conflict with their schedule, Naquin said they will work them on scheduling.

“We know we have a lot of good, good people in our community,” she said. “We just need to reach them.”

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