For years, the Teach, Inform, Mentor, Educate Program mentoring program has been helping to foster positive relationships between public school students and mentors. Running in all but one of the Mt. Laurel schools, this school-based mentoring program matches mentors with students who meet once a week in the school during the lunch hour from October through June.
Founded and still run by Pastor Terrell Person and his wife Toylene, who also run Jacob’s Chapel and the Colemantown Foundation, last year there were 60 participating students and 55 participating mentors. This year, the organization hopes to retain 75 to 100 mentors.
“As I was going back to school to get my bachelor’s degree, I had this vision I called ‘SOS,’ meaning Save Our Society, and I wished to do so one family at a time,” Person said. “Today, we’ve been doing this for 20 years and officially through the Mt. Laurel Board of Education for 15 years.”
This program has three main objectives: to provide positive role models for youth, to enhance the self-esteem of students and to encourage the academic success of students in at-risk situations. Ultimately, by fulfilling these objectives, the program subsequently works to increase positive attitudes toward the schools, high grades, better peer-to-peer relationships, better-expressed feelings and higher levels of self-confidence.
“It is an amazing program that helps many students right here in our schools and community. The problem is, not that many people are aware of the program and the good work that the Persons and all of the volunteer mentors are doing in our schools,” Wendy Keller, a volunteer mentor with the program, said.
Providing adolescents with strong, positive role models is a key part of the program, and for that reason, the mentor’s role is critical and the selection of mentors is carefully evaluated. Active mentors within this program must be caring, understanding and responsive, while acting as a friend who listens, supports and can offer advice.
“Mentors don’t focus on one particular academic area. What they really do is show up, be a consistent friend and listen,” Keller said. “Mentors and mentees play games, do crafts, help with homework/school work, read together, go out on the playground and more.”
The roles of the mentors also extend to providing a model of correct behavior that students can seek to emulate, developing positive beliefs in the benefits of education and by clarifying values that lead to positive attitudes. Additionally, mentors help students develop problem-solving skills, short- and long-term goals and can provide consistency in chaotic situations.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but over the last six years, I have enjoyed it immensely. I have two boys of my own, and female mentors are generally matched with female mentees, so it has been interesting for me to work with young girls,” Keller said. “You become really attached to these kids, and their successes are yours as well.”
To become a mentor, interested adults must complete a volunteer application that can be found on the programs website at: http://www.mtlaurelschools.org/community/T.I.M.E.-Mentor-Program/index.html. Once the application is approved, the volunteer must attend one training session held in the T.I.M.E. Mentor Office. Lastly, the mentor will be matched with a student based on the student’s current “readiness to succeed,” similar backgrounds, hobbies, family composition or other interests.
For more information on the program, call (856) 979–9200.