Standing in the gap
Kids Hope USA mentors Mac El’s neediest
By Eric Stoff, email@example.com
When Assistant Principal Jeremy Fewell noticed decrease in attendance and an increase in behavioral problems at Maconaquah Elementary School, he knew where to go.
Fewell turned to McGrawsville United Methodist Church for help implementing a mentor program in which adults from the church regularly mentor students with behavioral concerns. MUMC and Mac El plugged into a national mentor program called Kids Hope USA.
“Anytime we can get qualified volunteers to come in and help out, it’s always good.” Fewell said, adding MUMC has been a consistent partner for the school in the past. “We felt we had a need in this area.”
Fewell said MUMC assumed the financial responsibility of joining Kids Hope USA, and mentors of the program go through a “lengthy” training process before they can meet with students. Mentors go through background checks and attend monthly meetings at the church, and they are trained on how to navigate sensitive issues and how to keep church and state separate.
Fewell said the program was planned last school year, it was implemented in September, and it has decreased referrals and expulsions “at least by half” in that time.
Nancy Franklin, Director of Kids Hope USA at MUMC, said the 12 mentors currently enrolled in the program participate “because they have a big heart for children,” and they recognize the need in the community.
“Statistically, in nearly every economic indicator, our county suffers,” Franklin said. “Too many families in Miami County are in need of basics, and their children's education suffer because of it.
She said mentors include Maconaquah bus drivers, school board members, Sunday School teachers, and youth leaders. They typically meet with one student for one hour per week.
“(The mentors) understand the desperate need to pull up our kids — to create lifelong learners, to give hope, and, to share their incredible, expansive, endless love,” Franklin said.
Franklin said poverty is “highly correlated” with decreased academic success and opportunities in adulthood.
“One agency will never be able to fix the problems of poverty, but many different kinds of services can stand in the gap,” Franklin said. “Kids Hope is unique in that we don't provide material items, nor do we do counseling. We simply provide a trained adult mentor who can show interest, help with academics and social learning, and encourage and provide hope.”
Both Fewell and Franklin said they look forward to seeing the program grow in years to come. Fewell said the goal is to have 25 mentors involved.
“To have people who are willing to come here and do this, I think it’s a great partnership that will continue to flourish,” Fewell said.
Franklin agreed, saying she hopes the program’s success encourages, “those sitting on the sidelines that this is a pretty special program — a not-to-miss opportunity to make a true difference in a child's life.”