● By Wendy Sipple
With the economy in its current condition and local schools struggling more than ever to provide students with the best education possible,
the use of mentoring programs in elementary and middle schools proves an effective way of helping to offset some of the challenges teachers face in the classroom.
“I have seen the enthusiasm, warmth and care the tutors exhibit when they are working with the children. [They] provide the extra attention that many of our students need,” says Karen Nauert, Title 1 Resource Teacher at Sierra Gardens Elementary in Roseville, in regard to the Foster Grandparent Program. “The volunteer programs are well organized, and the coordinator and teachers communicate regularly. I have found it to be flexible and open to meeting our students’ needs.”
The Foster Grandparent Program, one of the local mentoring programs available to schools in the Placer and Sacramento counties, recruits low-income seniors who have a desire to help children with special needs. Foster Grandparents work one-on-one with children that are working below grade level. In most cases, the Foster Grandparents work with children on their reading fluency and comprehension.
“Often it is very difficult for children to receive one-on-one help from their teachers due to class size,” according to Program Director Dennis Brodsky. “The Foster Grandparent volunteers provide individualized attention which helps both academically and with their self-esteem.”
Another mentoring program geared toward assisting children (and teachers) with extra help is offerend by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Dorado County. Their School Mentor Program, which extends to the 50 Corridor and El Dorado Hills area, assists 10 local elementary and middle schools. The children are matched one-to-one with a community volunteer – called a “school mentor” who meets with the student at their school during the student’s lunch hour, one day a week.
The School Mentor Program is an evidence-based program that helps students feel more “connected” to their school and helps them to be more successful in school, both socially and academically. The biggest impact and outcomes happen in mentoring relationships that last into a second, or even third year. Many of the mentors are willing to make a longer commitment because it only takes an hour of their time a week and doesn’t take away from time with their own families; the mentors also appreciate having summers and other school breaks off! “Most of the mentor volunteers work at businesses that are within five minutes of the school site and are able to do their volunteer work during their lunch hour, just one day a week,” said Executive Director Deborah Jones. “What could be easier? Plus, it’s fun and truly makes a difference in the lives of these children.”
At times, close bonds are formed between the children and the mentor. One of the Big Brothers Big Sisters school mentors has been matched with a middle school student who was previously struggling socially and academically. This seventh grade boy lived in a group home until being adopted recently. In the past, he didn’t have a lot of support or encouragement in completing homework or doing well in school. After being matched with his “Big Brother” school mentor for several months, he has already brought his grades up from failing to a “C” average. According to the school counselor, he is happier and much more enthused about school, friendships and his future.
Placer County Office of Education, 49er Regional Occupational Program
Contact: Regina Swaney, Instructor of the Child Development and Education Class
364 Nevada Street, Auburn 530-889-5949
Summary of Program: Students that participate in my Child Development and Education program, offered by the Placer County Office of Education, 49er Regional Occupational Program, are placed at elementary schools throughout Placer County to do their on-the-job training or internship. My students work one-on-one with the children, in small groups. They also plan, prepare, and implement specific lessons in the classroom.
Regions Served: This is a Placer County Office of Education program thus serves all of Placer County. My range of students and placements includes – Roseville, Granite Bay, Rocklin, Loomis, Auburn, Colfax, Cool, and Lincoln.
Foster Grandparent Program
Contact: Dennis Brodsky, Director
2427 Marconi Avenue, Sacramento 916-875-4462
Summary of Program: The Foster Grandparent Program recruits low income senior volunteers age 55+. In return for 15-20 hours per week working with children, they receive a tax-free stipend, supplemental accident insurance, a yearly physical, training and monthly opportunities to socialize with other Foster Grandparent Volunteers.
Regions Served: The local Foster Grandparent Program serves Sacramento, Placer and Yolo Counties. Our volunteers can be found in 9 school districts as well as several preschool programs, hospitals, and out of home facilities.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Dorado County Mentors for Youth
Contact: If you would like to learn more about being a School Mentor, please call Big Brothers Big Sisters case manager Amber Henrichs at 530-626-1222, ext. 17.
Summary of Program: Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Dorado County is a 501 c (3) nonprofit organization, chartered in 1977. We are an affiliate of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and governed by a local volunteer Board of Directors. During the past 30+ years we have provided positive role models for thousands of at-risk youth, ages 6 to 16. Through these one-to-one mentoring relationships, youth are given support and opportunities that help them grow into confident, competent and caring adults.
Regions Served: We serve the western slope of El Dorado County, including the communities of Camino, Pollock Pines, Diamond Springs, Placerville, Cameron Park, Shingle Springs, Rescue and El Dorado Hills. We have two programs: 1) our traditional community-based program in which we match positive adult role models with at-risk youth and 2) our school-based program in which we match one-to-one mentors with students struggling socially or academically.