Thursday, January 31, 2013

The power of mentoring

Have you ever thought of being a mentor?  January is National Mentoring Month, and Oconee County is celebrating those who give back by making a difference in the life of a child through the mentoring process.  On January 17, the Oconee County Mentor Program, a partnership between the Oconee Area Resource Council (OARC) and the Oconee County Schools, recognized mentors at its annual Mentor Appreciation Breakfast.  The event, held at Oconee Veterans Park, kicked off the month-long awareness campaign, which is designed to highlight the need for adult volunteers in the lives of our youth.  This year’s theme is Mentoring Works: Inspire. Achieve. Advocate.  

Currently, there are 45 adults and students involved in mentoring relationships through the Oconee County Mentoring Program.  These mentors include UGA students, working professionals, and many retired educators.  Each mentor completes an application and background check, and participates in a training program prior to being introduced to their mentee.  Mentors are constantly being recruited as the need is continual.  Thus, training is provided on a monthly basis to allow for volunteers to commit as available and be matched up when a need arises. 

The Oconee Mentor Program is a school-based program with mentors and students meeting on school campuses each week.  A mentor is a friendly face, a listening ear, and a guiding voice to many students and their visits are eagerly anticipated by the young people impacted.  In fact, research indicates that mentoring can have positive academic benefits for students and lead to:

--Improved academic performance
--Improved graduation rates
--Reduction in the number of disciplinary referrals
--Increased school attendance

In addition, students who are mentored demonstrate enhanced abilities to form more positive and healthy adult relationships.

This year OARC recognized Jessica Dickerson, a counselor at Oconee County Middle School, and Karl Langenbach, a volunteer mentor, for their outstanding service to the young people of Oconee County.  Their recognition highlights the importance of the partnership between the school system and OARC to produce effective mentor relationships.  Counselors from our county schools work closely with representatives from OARC to notify them of student needs and monitor the school-based visits via logs and the sign-in process.  This assistance frees up the mentors to focus on the mentee and the development of healthy relationships. 

Have questions? Want to get involved?  For more information please contact Patsy Grimes, mentor program coordinator for the Oconee Area Resource Council, at 706-769-4974.

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