This Christmas – Give the Gift of Mentoring

by Valita Quattlebaum, APR, NHCS Chief Communications Officer

“It takes a village to raise a child.” African Proverb

Christmas tree in Superintedent's Office

In this Christmas season, as our thoughts turn to gift giving and celebrating, we should be reminded that one of the greatest gifts we can give to the children in our community is the gift of a quality education. At New Hanover County Schools, we work hard to ensure that we have high-quality educators, our 43 schools are clean and well maintained, and we serve 19,100 nutritious meals daily. However, no matter how great our staffs or the systems we use, we cannot do it alone. We rely on the people in our community who support us by serving as volunteers and mentors in the schools. Volunteers and mentors gave nearly 20,000 service hours this academic year, however, as we seek to improve, more assistance is required.

Mentors are critical in our schools where our neediest students attend. We have 41% of our students who receive free and reduced lunch. Some of them won’t have enough food to eat over the long Christmas break. For some of our 901 homeless students, there won’t be presents under the tree or even their own beds in which to sleep. We have hundreds of students whose parents cannot adequately provide for them for a variety of reasons. For some children in our schools, this season of joy becomes a time of sadness and a reminder of the poverty and lack in their lives.

Fortunately, education is a bright spot and a way for students to climb out of poverty. A mentor can be a powerful person to help a student. Mentors are a source of encouragement and strength. For example, someone who was successful in school can show a student how to do the same. They can encourage a student to find anchoring activities such as sports, the arts, clubs or to connect with teachers that can help them want to stay in school.

At a recent meeting with Glen Locklear, principal of the JC Roe Center, he commented on the powerful impact the few mentors he has are making in the lives of some of his students. Currently, he has about four mentors from the LINC Program, but many more mentors are needed. Schools across the district such as New Hanover High, Virgo, Williston, Freeman, Snipes, Alderman, Gregory, Sunset Park and Winter Park have similar needs.

Being a mentor can mean different things based on a school’s particular needs. It can be as simple as having lunch with a student once a week and having meaningful discussions to help him stay on track and make wise choices. Mentoring can mean assisting with reading or sharing a particular skill that you may possess. For instance, at Roe, we are looking for someone who can give martial arts instruction because many of the students have expressed an interest in it. If learning karate can create a spark in a student and help him or her avoid trouble, it is well worth our efforts to find this type of mentorship for our students.

What greater way to give back to our community than to give of yourself, your time and talents to help improve the life of a student? If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please connect with us, and we’ll help you get started. Contact Frankie Pollock in the Public Relations Division at (910) 254-4319 or email frankie.pollock@nhcs.net.

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