The Connect Mentors program at Nooksack Valley high and middle schools has offered proven success. The addition of the Be the One program will open up possibilities for even more students, as it launches this fall.
Nooksack Valley Schools began the Connect Mentors program about five years ago as a direct response to students who were struggling, usually with a combination of grades, attendance and behavior.
“We were identifying students with specific needs and believed that providing mentoring support was a strong way to help them,” says Jim Schmotzer, mentor coordinator. Schmotzer met with the students showing the highest need and about 10 community members met with other students, generally once per week for an hour, who showed less intense needs. Some of those relationships have lasted multiple years and bridged from the middle school to high school.
While mentors will often work with just one student, others have transitioned to new students when one moves or graduates.
The biggest change with adding Be the One to the Nooksack Valley Schools allows students to request a mentor. “Any student can request,” Schmotzer says. “We might encourage kids that this would be helpful.”
Chuck and Lee Ann Handy are helping to bring the Be the One program to Nooksack Valley Schools, a program that already has proven successful at Lynden and Ferndale schools. A banner advertising the program that has been up in the Nooksack Valley area since the summer has already drawn about 10 new community volunteer mentors.
Schmotzer says the Handys will lead an effort to recruit new community mentors and raise money to support the program.
“We are going to see where it takes us and hopefully be able to manage it,” Schmotzer says about the expected growth and interest from students. “That is part of what we have to learn.”
While the Connect Mentors program will remain in place, Schmotzer says the two programs will continue to evolve and mentors in either can help each other and train alongside each other. At some point, the overlaps may bring all the mentoring services into one Be the One umbrella.
Schmotzer says the hope is to increase mentoring options for students in Nooksack Valley Schools by increasing the organizational system, upping staffing and increasing recruiting and participation.
“Through mentoring, Nooksack Valley students benefit from relationships with adults who care, listen and support,” Schmotzer says. “Mentoring provides a safe space for students to explore the fullness of life, grow as individuals, be better ready for the daily opportunities of school and prepare for life beyond.”
For those interested in learning more about any of the mentoring opportunities and how to volunteer, contact Schmotzer via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.