By: Lanetra Bennett
December 17, 2013
Tallahassee, FL - Local school administrators say being a role model, helping with school work, and just being a friend are all things that can make a huge difference in children's lives.
Leon County Schools is turning to the faith-based community to help.
The School Superintendent, Jackie Pons, says this partnership with churches isn't about pushing prayers in the classroom, it's about changing lives through mentorship.
Rev. Joseph Wright says, "Mentoring builds character, builds character, builds integrity, teaches us structure and accountability."
Leon County School administrators say that's what makes partnering with the faith-based community ideal.
Tuesday, the district invited more than 30 religious and faith leaders to sit down over breakfast and discuss the district's mentoring initiative.
Rev. Wright says this group has a lot to offer: "Mostly character and trying to maintain a good example. that's the key there, maintaining a good example so our children can emulate."
Educators say a child who meets with a mentor once a week is: less likely to try alcohol and illegal drugs, less likely to skip school, less likely to get into a fight, and more likely to succeed in school.
Superintendent Pons says, "We're looking forward to increasing our number of mentors. We started out with a goal of 500 mentors. We have 700 new ones this year. We're hoping to get to 1,000. I think with this group, we can make it."
Mentoring sessions take place on school property, during the school day. Superintendent Jackie Pons says the faith leaders understand the separation of prayer in schools.
He says, "As far a community service, you can be involved. What they're providing is community service by mentoring, reading with students; not expressing their religious views. That would not be accepted. But, they're indeed involved in helping these children and we appreciate it."
Mentoring in Leon County Schools is one hour, with one child, once a week.
Superintendent Pons has also asked the leaders to tell their congregations about mentoring and volunteering.
For more information on mentoring in Leon County Schools, visit the District mentor website at www.SitDownForKids.com or email the program at Mentor@LeonSchools.net. You can also call the School Volunteer Program at 850-487-7800.
any adult who attends a formal mentor training and who is approved through the LCS criminal background check process can be a mentor.