Mentoring Programs Benefit Students
Efforts Highlighted During National Volunteer Week
OKLAHOMA CITY (April 10, 2014)
– This week marks National Volunteer Week, which honors the countless
people across the nation who offer their time, skill and compassion to help
others in need.
When it comes to volunteering to help
children, one of the most effective ways to make a big impression is to
“A mentorship program can have a strong
and immediate impact for a school. Especially for a struggling student, a
mentor can truly be a positive role model and friend. It’s such a rewarding
way to give back,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet
Mentoring programs come in many
varieties. One school that benefits from mentors is Stanley Hupfeld Academy
at Western Village in Oklahoma City.
For an hour each week, Stanley Hupfeld
visits the elementary school that bears his name to hang out with a boy he
mentors. Next year, Hupfeld wants to start teaching him chess, but, for
now, they play checkers and talk about geography.
“I’ve often said it’s the best hour I
spend all week,” said Hupfeld, former president and CEO of INTEGRIS Health.
Mentors started coming to the school more
than a decade ago, back when it was still called Western Village
Elementary. Today, it has more than 300 mentors. They are community members
with all kinds of backgrounds. Some are older students, and about a third
work for INTEGRIS.
“Our goal is to have a mentor for every
student in Stanley Hupfeld Academy,” said Academy director Tobi
Oklahoma has more than 100 mentoring and
leadership programs, according to the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.
The OFE helps establish mentoring programs in schools statewide through its
David and Molly Boren Mentoring Initiative.
Mentors provide a stable source of
support for students who might not get that at home. They can tutor kids
who need academic help, or they can lend a sympathetic ear. By simply
visiting with a child for an hour a week, mentors leave a lasting and
Bernard Jones, who works with prosthetics
at the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center, is in his eighth year as a mentor
at Stanley Hupfeld Academy. He admits he was skeptical when he first heard
about the program, afraid it would amount to babysitting.
It didn’t take long to change his mind.
“It’s something I look forward to every
week. The kids look forward to seeing me every week,” Jones said.
The program at Stanley Hupfeld Academy is
one branch of the Positive Directions mentoring program, which INTEGRIS
operates in communities with its hospitals. Each mentor is matched to a
single student whom he or she hopefully will stick with until that student
graduates to the next school.
What to do with the weekly hour is up to
mentors and mentees. Jones said the first 30 minutes of his sessions
typically are devoted to study time, but he leaves at least 15 minutes to
play games or talk.
“As they get to know you, they get a
little looser and start to share their life stories with you,” he said.
Mentoring programs in Oklahoma have been
started at all levels of schools by a range of organizations, including
colleges, churches, nonprofits and businesses.
In Tulsa's Kendall-Whittier Elementary
School, roughly 70 students stay until 6 p.m. every weekday to spend time
with their mentors. The youth mentoring program was launched off-site by a
neighborhood nonprofit in 2003. Several years ago, it became part of the
University of Tulsa's True Blue Neighbors initiative and was moved into the
school building with help from the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
"We've really seen tremendous growth
in our ability to serve students and parents in this neighborhood,"
said director Danielle Hovenga.
Although the program is free,
participants must apply to join. Every kid gets a healthy after-school
snack, takes a break for playtime and spends an hour working on academics
with a mentor. Half of that hour is spent on literacy, Hovenga said.
Mentors come from across the community
and many are associated with the university, she said. Some faculty and
staff volunteer, and students can use it as a work-study job or for
academic credit in some classes.
Being able to operate the mentoring
program from inside the building has led to better coordination with
teachers, and the school staff gets to see the mentoring program in action,
Beverly Woodrome, director of the
mentoring initiative at OFE, said there are too many kinds of successful
mentoring initiatives around the state to suggest one model is better than
others. In one town, a mentoring program was begun by a local banke r who
simply recognized a need. In bigger cities, large corporations sometimes
hire staff solely to run their mentoring programs.
There is one basic ingredient both
Woodrome and Hupfeld cited; both the school and the mentoring organization
need to be dedicated to the program and provide designated leaders on both
Mentors range from top-level executives
to school custodians. The more careers and backgrounds represented, the
better, Woodrome said.
“I think sometimes we overlook people who
could be inspirational,” she said.