Friday, February 04, 2011

After a Decade of Service as Public School Mentor, Camper Still Going Strong

At 7:30 a.m. Bill Camper is at Peachtree City Elementary mentoring a student from Betty Stricklen’s first grade classroom. Before classes begin, Camper and his mentee go over what was taught the day before so the student is on task with the rest of his classmates. Camper stays with his mentee for the Pledge of Allegiance and Moment of Silence, standing tall, hand over his heart. He will be back three more times before the week is done. This has been Camper’s ritual since 2000, and he has no plans of stopping any time soon.

“I have survived all these years for some reason. I keep trying to find out what it is,” he says jokingly.
With 10 years of service under his belt, Camper is the longest running volunteer mentor in the Friends Mentoring Program of the Fayette County Public School System. He is one of over 100 adults and teens who volunteer as mentors for students at all levels in the school system.

“My involvement as a tutor has kept me informed of changes in our education system. It allows me to maintain contact with my children and grandchildren’s generations,” he says.

During his tenure, Camper has worked with 13 students from Peachtree City Elementary, providing an hour a week of instruction for students who need extra academic help. He keeps in close contact with his students’ teacher so that he can help reinforce the material that is being taught in class. He prefers working with his mentees before school so that the two of them can go over what was covered the day before.

“My strategy is to help the student start the day at the same level as the rest of the class,” Camper says.
A son of an immigrant family from Costa Rica, Camper is fluent in Spanish, and has helped ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) students learn English in addition to working with regular education students. He currently is working with two first graders from Betty Sticklen’s class. He has worked with Stricklen’s students the entire time he has been a mentor.

“I love this man, and have such great respect for what he has done for my students and our community. He works with students who are having academic difficulties, but he teaches them so much more than just academics,” says Stricklen.

Camper served 31 years in the United States Army, retiring as a Lt. Colonel. He models respect and self-discipline, and expects the same from his mentees. He requires feet on the floor, stresses no hats indoors, and compliments a neat appearance.

“Students can do things differently at home, but these are the expectations I have for them at school,” he says.

While enlisted in the Army, he spent 12 years attending college at night to earn a degree in education and social studies. After retiring, he decided he preferred working outdoors; he started a landscape design and construction business that he ran for 20 years. Now, he has come full circle, putting his life experiences and formal education to good use by helping students in the community.

“I have an opportunity to reinforce with students the best of American culture and values, and observe the best that our educators are contributing to our country’s future,” he says.

The Friends Mentoring Program needs additional mentors of all ages and backgrounds to help and befriend students who are struggling academically or just need someone to be there for them. Mentors commit to working with their student one hour per week during the school year. Mentors must go through a background check and complete a training program before being assigned a mentee. Interested persons should contact Jane Gough of the Friends Mentoring Program, 770-460-3990, ext. 255.

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