ROCK BRIDGE: High school mentors program rewarding for participants

Monday, September 26, 2011 | 11:36 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA —In addition to a year of tests, quizzes and classes, 31 Rock Bridge High School students take time out of their school week to mentor or tutor students at Columbia middle and elementary schools. 

The Rock Bridge High School Mentors/Tutors class consists of 23 mentor students and eight tutors. The class began its mentorships at the schools after Labor Day. I

Drawing from the success of its predecessors, the class models its program after the Big Brothers Big Sistersprogram, Rock Bridge guidance counselor Rachel Reed said.

The program helps children from Smithton Middle School, Rock Bridge Elementary School, West Boulevard Elementary School, Gentry Middle School and New Haven Elementary School. The program fosters mentorship of 26 younger children in addition to some group tutoring.

The students participate in a variety of activities that may appeal to the younger children. Such activities include playing games, talking, helping with homework and any academic support the mentor feels is necessary, Reed said.

“I have one girl who is mentoring with a student who is academically struggling, and she meets with him during his study hall period. She will help him finish homework, and then they’ll play games or talk about different things,” Reed said.

Rock Bridge High School student Jackie Nichols spends her mentor time at Rock Bridge Elementary School. Nichols' mentee is similar to some other mentees. He doesn't want her to give attention to other students and enjoys the time he spends with her.

“He’s very territorial of me, like sharing me with other kids, so you can tell that he definitely appreciates the time I’m with him like as a friend — someone to talk to,” Nichols said.

Nichols said she is a buddy to her mentee during his regular school day, which includes reading aloud, writing time, recess and snack time, Nichols said.  

For Rock Bridge High School student Tessa Vellek, volunteer work is almost second nature. Vellek founded the philanthropic organization Euphoria at age 10. Her organization has expanded in time to include participation in charity work, including helping cancer patients, collecting food and tutoring students, Vellek said.

Through the mentors class, Vellek is able to further expand her sphere of influence. She is a mentor at West Boulevard Elementary School to a fourth grade student.

“My favorite part of mentoring is simply having the connection between my mentee and I,” Vellek said. “We have really connected and bonded, and so I think that helps her find a place because she’s new to the school.”

Vellek recently purchased her mentee's favorite book for them to read together.

Through the program, mentors aid mentees in a variety of activities.

In order to participate in the year-long, one-credit elective course, students must apply in the spring. A simple desire to be a part of this class is not enough — the application process consists of short answer questions, an interview and two teacher or counselor references, Reed said. Participants say the process is equally rewarding for all of those involved.

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