Columbia County pupils needing adult role models might soon have a deluge of qualified mentors.
Andy Kingery, a retired vice president of SunTrust Bank and a former director of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, is organizing a grass-roots effort to put mentors in schools, specifically the three county schools that failed to meet annual yearly progress requirements in the 2003-04 school year: Grovetown Middle, Harlem Middle and Harlem High School.
"These are three schools that, for whatever reason, with the new No Child Left Behind rules and regulations, didn't make the grade in some areas," Mr. Kingery said. "I'm just trying to recruit mentors to go into those schools to mentor these kids."
He took the first step toward instituting the program with an endorsement from the Columbia County School Board at its Sept. 14 meeting. And on Tuesday, the Columbia County Commission, at Mr. Kingery's behest, will name October Mentoring Month.
Mr. Kingery will then begin actively seeking volunteers. Many Fort Gordon soldiers already have agreed to participate, he said. He will also look to business leaders.
"Some of the kids need mentoring in reading, some in math, and some in just everyday life," he said. "Some of these kids just need a role model to talk to. That doesn't require a college degree in math or a teaching certificate."
Mr. Kingery has met with the principals of the three schools, and each has offered to support the program, he said.
"If we can get the right people willing to give their time, they can be good role models for students to look up to," Harlem Middle Principal Walker Davis said. "They can also provide some guidance and maybe change how some students perceive school."
The program offers pupils individual tutoring and encouragement they don't always get in a classroom environment, Mr. Kingery said.
Mr. Davis said some of his pupils just need someone to share a book with.
"We have students who lack some reading skills, and they just need someone to read with them and listen to them and help them," he said.
How to help
To be a mentor, call Terra Carroll at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, 651-0018. Volunteers must fill out an application, submit to a background check by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office and complete training through the school system.
Reach Donnie Fetter at 868-1222, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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