Some community leaders in McDuffie County have expanded their universe. But not enough.
January is National Mentoring Month, and the theme is "Expand your universe. Mentor a child."
"We only have 31 for the whole county right now. So, we are desperate for more mentors ... When you think about the number of kids that are out there, we need a whole lot," said Miriam Smith, the executive director of Partners For Success in McDuffie County.
Spearheaded in 2002 by the Harvard Mentoring Project, MENTOR, and the Corporation for National and Community Service, the month-long national campaign "focuses attention on the need for mentors, as well as how individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, churches and nonprofit organizations can work together to increase those numbers and assure brighter futures for young people," according to the Web site.
As a Communities In Schools site, Partners For Success coordinates the mentoring efforts for all local schools, including background checks, schedules, reports and matching willing adults with children in need.
Mentoring takes only 20-30 minutes each week, Mrs. Smith said.
"Instead of having lunch with a coworker or friend, have lunch with a child once a week," she said.
"That's basically what you do."
Other time slots are available besides during lunch. Mrs. Smith said there are many opportunities to visit the child during the after school program. All visits are made at the child's school.
Mentoring is not tutoring.
Rather, it is taking an interest in a child, encouraging them and listening to them.
"It's truly just an adult person outside their family that they can talk to," Mrs. Smith said.
"Someone that cares and has an interest in how they're doing, that is a role model for them."
For more information, call Nancy Shelton at Partners For Success, 706-595-3112.
BY THE NUMBERS
Among Communities In Schools-tracked students who were mentored in 2006-07:
78 percent improved school attendance.
89 percent had fewer incidents of discipline.
80 percent improved academic performance.
82 percent were promoted to the next grade.
78 percent of eligible seniors graduated.
3 percent dropped out, lower than the national average of 4 percent