Correction, December 20, 2006: In an article in Tuesday's Xtreme section, the goal of the Butler High School mentoring program was incorrectly stated. The aim of the program is to decrease the school's freshmen retention rate by working with 275 of the 424 ninth grade students. A photo caption that ran with the story also incorrectly stated the grade of Shanell Cunningham. She is a junior at the school. The Chronicle regrets the errors. (Highlight changes)
The T-shirts say it all.
Embossed on the backs of crisp white crewnecks are the words of John Quincy Adams: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
The 25 students in Butler High School's mentorship program, live that creed around lunch time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
That's when they work with some of the school's 275 freshmen on issues that are unique to high school. Drawing from lesson plans they created and from the perspective of fellow students who have been through similar situations, they reach out to their schoolmates.
"I wanted to do this because I wanted to be a role model to the freshmen," said Shont Gant, 18, a senior. "Many freshmen, they fall behind their classes and I didn't want the class of (2010) to be the same way. When I was a freshman, we had a lot of people to fall behind."
The program began this year at the suggestion of the school's administration and advisory board. The aim of the program is to decrease the school's freshmen retention rate by working with 275 of the 424 ninth grade students.
"We try to give them everything that they need to be successful throughout high school," said senior Dexter Dodd, 17. "We tutor them and just be there for them to let them know that there's someone they can talk to."
Mentor Ashley Lee said she didn't get that as a freshman.
"When I was in ninth grade, I had to figure it out on my own," she said. "But to have a senior to help you, you're not alone and that just helps."
It also helps that the mentors have been where their freshmen counterparts have been, said mentor Krystle Smith, 17, a senior.
"We talk to them like we know what they're going through," she said. "And we talk to them about subjects that we've been through."
The students appreciate that type of give-and-take, freshman Tiffany Miller said.
"We can relate to them," she said. "They have a sense of humor. They teach us but they're fun, too."
Chiquita Polite, the mentoring adviser and language arts department teacher, said she's been pleased with how giving her student mentors have been.
"Our motto is 'Each one, reach one,'" she said. "I really appreciate my mentors for their dedication and the daily sacrifices they make in order to continue to educate and inspire their mentees."
It's paying off one student at a time.
"I've really changed a lot with them helping me," said freshman Joanne Carver, 14, "Whatever they find out that you need, they'll help you through it."
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.