Monday, May 11, 2009

Friends Mentors Honored at First Annual Breakfast

As mentors signed in at the breakfast, they were handed a small token of appreciation for their volunteerism. Marilyn Hare (L), a reading tutor at Peachtree City Elementary, will start her fourth year with the program in the fall. She is greeted by the school’s counselor and advisory board member, Ruth Cooper.

More than 200 adults and high school students reach out each week to help children who are struggling, academically, socially or both, have a more positive experience in and outside of school.

They are volunteers in the Fayette County School System’s Friends Mentoring Program, and for the first time, their volunteerism was formally honored during a recognition breakfast that is slated to become an annual event.

Over 30 of the school system’s mentors attended the breakfast. Those in attendance ranged from volunteers who just started the program this year all the way up to multiple years of involvement, including the program’s longest serving mentor, Sally Sharkle of Heritage Bank. Sharkle began mentoring in 1994 and works with students at Hood Avenue Primary. She was honored with a special recognition to commemorate her longstanding service to the program.

Mentors are required to go through training and an extensive background check before acceptance into the program. They are asked to commitment to working with a student at school for one hour each week. Volunteers work with students, at all grade levels, who have been identified by their counselors as benefitting from a mentor/student relationship. The school obtains parental permission prior to assigning a mentor to a child.

Mentors spend their time each week helping students with homework, class assignments, or just talking or listening. Sometimes mentors, like Trelawney Bundrage who started the program three years ago at Fayetteville Intermediate, decide with their protégés to continue their relationship from one grade level to the next. Bundrage followed her protégé to Fayette Middle.

“This program has worked so well over the years because it is simple. The commitment is 90 percent just showing up. I want to congratulate all of you on making that commitment,” said Friends Mentor Manager Jane Gough to mentors attending the breakfast.

About a year ago, Gough had the idea of establishing an advisory board to help move the program forward; the recognition breakfast was one of the ideas to come from the board that is made up of business leaders, tutors, counselors and mentors. Other enhancements originated by the board include background and finger print checks for all mentors and an electronic newsletter.

Julius Pryor, a first year mentor at Fayette Middle and advisory board member, summed up what it means to be a mentor.

“We are focused on outcomes and the young people we are working with everyday. We are professionals; we are trained, committed, disciplined, focused and are willing to extend ourselves. We realize we are having an impact and are making a difference in students’ lives. We all get as much out of this as our protégés,” Pryor said as he addressed his fellow mentors at the breakfast.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities through the Friends Mentoring Program, contact Gough at or call 770-460-3990, ext. 255.

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