Mentorship program looks for volunteers, sets up freshman students for success

Tamika Green already knows she’ll cry.

“I did for the last one and I will this time again,” she said.

Green is speaking of the annual April celebration gathering between Destrehan and Hahnville high school students with their adult mentors who helped guide them to success throughout the school year, relationships formed through the St. Charles Parish Public Schools mentoring program.

“It’s a culmination of the love that’s been extended between both mentor and student … it’s such a win-win,” said Green, who annually mentors a student and is one of the program’s coordinators. “The reward is so great. When students decide to share how much this has helped them and how much having that adult advocate means to them … it’s my favorite part.”

Green and the school district are recruiting volunteers to mentor freshman students for this school year, with 52 mentors needed at Destrehan and 43 needed at Hahnville.

Through the program, students meet with a mentor for 14 morning sessions of 30 minutes, with an overarching goal to help students make a seamless transition from middle school to high school and to ultimately maximize each student’s chances of academic success.

These meetings take place at the library, where the early focus is on building a relationship.

“If you don’t have that, you won’t get far with the student,” said program coordinator Dr. Alice Cryer-Sumler. “We stress that you work on that initially.”

The data speaks favorably of the program, Green believes. ACT scores, graduation cohort rate – or, the probability that a student graduates with the freshman group they arrived with – and scholarship numbers have been climbing upward. The cohort rate is now higher than the state average at both Destrehan and Hahnville high schools and it has been ticking upward each year.

“I do believe that mentorship is playing a part in making that happen,” said Green.

Added Cryer-Sumler, “Research shows it improves outlook in many areas, especially staying in school and graduating high school.”

Both speak with passion about the program. Green said that relationship building is at the core of a student’s ability to thrive in a high school environment – feeling a sense of belonging, she said, spurs students to engage more fully with what a school has to offer.

“This program gives the student an adult advocate to call their own,” said Green. “I don’t know one human being who wouldn’t benefit from someone willing to stop and drop everything every other week for 30 minutes, just for you. Every human benefits from another human committed to them.

“The people we’re mentoring – my mentee, and the mentees I’ve been blessed to have prior to this year, they have families. They’re loved. They have teachers who love them, administrators at their schools who love them, they’re working hard and passing their classes. But at the same time, we understand some students are unique and some of us need a bit more guidance. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”


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