HAZARD — Perry County Central High School is the first school in Perry County to participate in the Mentor Program through AmeriCorps. The goal of the program is to get the school out of persistent low achieving (PLA) status by focusing on students with low attendance, behavioral problems and improving grades.
The program is funded by the School Turn Around Grant for schools with PLA.
There are currently 18 mentors. Each mentor has 50 or more students. They meet with each student individually once per week.
“Really, what they are trying to do is make this relationship with the student that really hasn’t been there for a few decades,” said Coordinator John Schroader. He explained further, “The roles of teachers and guidance counselors keep getting longer and longer in the state. They are focusing more on testing and grades.”
When the mentors meet their students on the first day, they pull them from the classroom for a couple of minutes, unless the teacher explains to the mentor that the instruction is important, and establishes a interpersonal relationship with the student.
“What the relationship building is trying to do is to get a positive relationship between the mentor and student,” said Schroader.
The next step the mentors focus on is improving the students attendance, helping the student’s grades and any behavioral issue the student might have.
The biggest focus, Schroader says, is attendance.
“In the schools we are serving, the attendance is one of the biggest factors that the school needs help with,” said Schroader.
During their mentor session, the mentor will go over the student handbook with the student and they remind the student that their is only a number of days a student can miss without a doctor’s note.
Attendance has made a small improvement in the high school and Schroader believes that the attendance will improve significantly over the next couple of years, because of success of schools in Knox and Leslie Counties who have participated in the program.
“But here, we have seen the attendance go up. Enough that we see that what we are doing is making an impact,” said Schroader.
What Mentor Elizabeth De’Hart enjoys about the mentor program is seeing positive results from the students she mentors.
“This is the whole reason why I do it, cause I know the kids need me and when they needs us, we’re here,” said De’Hart.
The Mentor Program also organizes college visits for seniors. They are currently involved with helping the Veterans Center and have plans to get involved with Hazard Community and Technical College during the summer. Some of the projects include creating a bike trail and trying to revitalize downtown Hazard.
Mentor Daniel Cornett helps out with the Jazz Band every Wednesday with the guitar section.
“You kinda lose the formalities a little bit. You roll up your sleeves, you get in there with them and associate with them. You get to know them on a personal level. It makes it more comfortable for them, because they don’t look at us like authoritative figures like they do teachers. We are the liaison between faculty and home life,” said Cornett.
Cornett said while it is helpful to students and rewarding for him, it also is helping him develop skills for a possible career as a teacher.
The Mentor Program helped De’Hart realize that she wanted to become a social worker, so that way she could go out into the community and help those who are in need.
“I want to help in every possible way,” said De’Hart.
This is the last year of the grant, but Schroader believes they have been a strong chance of having the grant renewed for another three years.
For those interested in becoming a mentor can email their resume and official college transcript to John Schroader at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are currently full this year, but they are taking applications for the Fall Semester.
TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-629-3245 or on Twitter @TJHazardHerald.