This school year may be unforgettable to some students because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that’s not the only reason 12 students at Luling Elementary will remember it forever.
“I’ve watched a student with anger issues actively work on her approach due to information that was shared with her by her mentor,” Marquita George, the social emotional learning coach at LES, said. “I’ve watched a student who would not talk to his classmates begin to join in on discussions, and I’ve watched a student with a speech disability open up and not be afraid to express what is on his mind.”
The Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish partnered with Luling Elementary in January to host a mentoring program for fifth graders. Twelve mentors, all Rotary members or spouses of members, met with students one day a week for six weeks to work on character development and problem-solving skills.
“I’ve had the extreme pleasure of witnessing the Rotary Mentor Program open up the minds and the hearts of our students,” George said.
Luling Elementary Principal Samuel Buhler also praised the mentoring partnership.
“The Rotary Club’s participation in the Luling Elementary Mentoring Program provided individual support to our students that is invaluable,” he said.
Kelsey Pollock, public relations chair for the Rotary Club, said the mentoring program falls under the youth service avenue of service for the organization.
“This year I was blessed with the position of social emotional learning coach at Luling Elementary,” George said. “In this role I have the opportunity to work with teachers on building relationships with students in addition to overseeing programs that provides direct support to our students … it is my job to assess the needs of the school and implement programs that I believe will bring about true change for our students and mentoring is something that I believe is crucial.”
Each mentee was selected with their unique personal goals and needs in mind.
“I watched students be hesitant to walk into the room and by the end of the six weeks were running in excitement to meet with their mentor,” George said. “This mentoring program allowed our students to make genuine connections with someone from their own community.”
The students were not the only ones forever changed because of the program.
“Seeing their confidence grow, their personalities blossom and hearing about their future dreams of how they will one day impact the world was such a gift,” Leah Woolf, Rotary mentoring committee chair, said. “I’m excited for the future to see what the Rotary Club’s impact with the students will have on the student’s personal life, their families, their education and the community.”
At the end of the six-week program, students hosted a celebration to show their mentors appreciation. George said one student cried when the celebration was over because he realized he would no longer be meeting with his mentor.
In addition to the mentoring program, the Rotary Club had planned to sponsor Luling Elementary’s fifth grade graduation ceremony. Due to the abrupt end of the on-campus school year, the money could no longer be used for this purpose. Instead, the club chose to donate 27 Kindle Fires to Luling Elementary in hopes to assist with telelearning.
Buhler said the devices will be used in primary grade levels as a means to support literacy development through the use of academic programs such as Lexia Learning and myON.
“We truly value this strong partnership with the Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish, which has proven to have a positive impact on student outcomes as well as our school community,” Buhler said.
George said future mentoring partnerships are being planned with Rotary, with the program extended to eight weeks in the fall. Plans to expand the program in order serve fourth graders are being discussed as well.
Rotary President Victoria Bryant said the mentorship program was such a short time to accomplish so much, but hopes the time the mentors spent with students planted a seed of hope in them.
“Hope can bring about the change needed to impact one person at a time,” she said. “My hope is that they pay it forward.”