By Debbie Lyons
Culver School District and Jefferson County Big Brother's Big Sisters have joined forces to offer a mentoring program at the Culver Elementary School.
Jennifer Hume, Culver Elementary student support services coordinator, Kevan Pratt, Culver High School counselor and Nancy Dodge, program coordinator for Jefferson County Big Brothers and Big Sisters, have matched up Culver High School students with Culver Elementary students.
This process involved parent approval, and both high school mentors and the elementary students to go through an application process.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has been offering one-on-one mentoring for youth in the Central Oregon area since 1994. Coming to Jefferson County in November of 2005, it is a program of J Bar J Youth Services and is the oldest and largest mentoring program in Central Oregon.
It provides screening, training, matching and supervision of mentors with youth. There are currently four offices in Central Oregon serving Jefferson, Deschutes and Crook counties.
In Culver, 25 elementary students have started the program with seven high school students serving as mentors. High school students meet with three or four elementary students individually once a week at designated times.
They either work together in the classroom, share recess outside or go to the library to share time together. They play games and talk to each other about shared interests.
Little sister Jaymie (the program only releases first names for younger kids) said of her Big Sister Stefanie Hamlin, an 11th grader, "She's fun ... (we) come here (to the elementary library) and play games."
Hamlin commented, "She asks me questions and we talk about sports, family and school work."
Big Sister Miriam Vega, an eleventh grader who works with Little Brother Javier, a third grader, said, "He enjoys playing soccer. I think that this program will be great because kids will say high schoolers are actually paying attention to them."
Little Brother Javier, noted, "We play soccer. It's fun. She's cool."
Dodge explained older kids get to use their experience as a mentor on college applications. "The younger kids get so excited. It is rewarding," she said.
Statistics from the first annual Community-Based Mentoring program outcome evaluation report and the 2005/2006 School Based Mentoring report showed teachers of students in the program reported: a 69 percent improved grade in at least one subject, 77 percent improvement in self-confidence, 65 percent improvement in attitude toward school, 86 percent improvement in self-confidence and 76 percent improvement in relationships with peers.