Published Sunday, February 24, 2013
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
Lisa Westrick moved from Texas last year and wanted to find somewhere to plug in at her child’s new elementary school. Cindy Luckie’s son is now a high-schooler, and she missed interacting with younger children.
Both are part of Northside Elementary School’s thriving mentor program, which matches adult volunteers with students who can benefit from a little extra attention. And both say they benefit as much from their relationships with the students they mentor as the students.
“They are so happy to see you,” said Westrick, mentor to twins Shemaya and Tamaya Clerk. “They want to tell you this or that happened at school, to give you a hug. You really get to make that connection with them.”
“Enjoying things from a young child’s perspective is so refreshing,” said Luckie, who enjoys activities like playing Candyland and tic-tac-toe with her student, Preston. “Mentors do a lot of listening and paying attention to them, and that makes them feel important.”
Bonnie Fain, Northside’s counselor, said Westrick started with one sister, got to know her and asked to mentor the other as well.
“She was brand-new to us, and now you see her volunteering all over the place,” Fain said, adding that both women “have done amazing things for our community here at school.”
“All of these children (in the mentoring program) are students whose teachers felt like they needed an extra support system other than their teachers, who have to be shared by everyone,” Fain said. “We requested help for our staff in the form of mentors, who can be that one-on-one academic, emotional and physical support.”
Fain said Luckie also is especially in tune with her kindergarten student.
“She takes Preston on little field trips like to a magic show,” Fain said. “She’s just become part of his family, and if ever a person loved somebody, Preston just loves Cindy.”
Both women – and all of the school’s mentors – are treasured by Northside, Fain said.
“They give so much time to help our little school out,” she said. “We feel like our school is a little more special because of them.”
Westrick and Luckie say as additions to – not replacements for – parents and other important adults, mentors can make a difference in their students’ lives.
“I’m a strong advocate for mentors,” Westrick said. “I hope our relationship can help them make better choices as they get older.”
“It’s one of the most important things we can do,” said Luckie. “And it’s easier than people think.”