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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Mentor program benefits children

Friday, October 26, 2007  
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By Jeremy Schofield

Oklahoma Christian University students serve as mentors and role models to children attending the local elementary school, Western Village Academy.

“Mentoring gives you an opportunity to affect the life of someone else,” junior, Jillian Belville, said.

This is Belville’s third year as a mentor at Western Village. She and approximately 100 other mentors visit Western Village once a week.

The program started to provide the educational support necessary to enhance the learning experience of at-risk students. Mentors are provided to many of the kids at the school to build self-esteem, provide positive role models, give assistance in overcoming negative behaviors, and improve classroom participation and academic success of the children.

Many of the children have poor home lives, which is why it means a lot for them to have a great deal of attention, according to sophomore Molly Hamilton.

Junior Brandon Wheelock mentors such a child. He frequently comes into the school to mentor and finds his child in the principal’s office.

“The kids are always talking about their mentors,” Wheelock said. “Mentors give them structure, stability and a role model that is cool to them.”

Oklahoma Christian students meet with their students in a special mentoring room full of various games and activities.

Mentors come to help their students with homework, reading and whatever else they may need help with.

Noticeable improvements are often made in the grades and skills of many of the children at Western Village Academy. 

“It encourages them to learn because they get to learn with someone they find cool,” Belville said. “My student used to struggle with reading, and now it’s her best subject.”

Playing games and walking around the outdoor track with the children are regular activities of the mentoring program. 

Mentors are encouraged to go support their students at sporting events or other activities they may have.

“My favorite thing I did with my kid was go to the zoo,” Belville said. “I went along on one of their field trips and got to know a lot of the other kids in her class.”

There are other mentors working with the Western Village children besides Oklahoma Christian students.

Kathy Lowder is the coordinator of the sister mentoring program at Integris Health, Positive Directions.

Lowder reported that during the 2006-2007 school year, 396 mentors participated in all the mentoring programs, donating over 5,500 hours of their time.

Many Oklahoma Christian students got involved after participating in Kite Day with the Western Village children at Earn Your Wings

College students find it tempting to not get involved because of scheduling issues.

Wheelock believes it is beneficial to find time to participate, even in the middle of a busy day.

“Just do it,” Wheelock said. “It’s worth it.”

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