Mentoring program aims to help kids who may have no one to look up to
Published 9:05 am Monday, January 16, 2017
The Kids Hope USA director at Junction City Elementary, Donna Kidd, hosted a mentor training session at Junction City First Baptist Church on Saturday for those who wanted to become mentors to kids in Danville-Boyle County schools.
Kids Hope USA “is the catalyst for an expanding network of church/school partnerships,” its website states. “These partnerships take on the enormous challenge of kids at risk—one child, one hour, one church, one school at a time—through one-on-one mentoring relationships.”
The need for mentors in the schools is a focus for the Hope Network in helping to direct children away from addiction.
Danville-Boyle County Community Education Director Alane Mills said she’s excited about expanding Kids Hope mentors into other schools because she’s seen what it has already done to students who have a mentor.
“Two and a half years ago, Brent Blevins at the health department, asked the question what the community, what the church can do to help with this addiction,” Hope Network chairman Gary Chidester said. “I’m grateful that God is raising up his church to be a part of dealing with this crisis called addiction, and I’m grateful that people care enough that they would be willing to come in and just love on a child. I feel like God has appointed this time, at the beginning of time, for us to come together and do this.”
“This is definitely a big need in the community,” Chief Deputy Brian Wofford said. Wofford said that in serving 20 years in law enforcement, he has been in homes and has seen situations where the kids don’t have a choice or a way out because of the choices their parents have made.
Kidd said out of the 17 children in the Kids Hope program in Junction City, there are 11 who do not live with their biological parents due to drug use.
“I think being able to connect with these kids and build a relationship is the best way to prevent them from choosing the path of drug use, drug abuse and alcohol abuse,” Wofford said.
As far as the schools are concerned, Mills said while Danville and Boyle County schools are great districts, there is a lot of need in both of them. The best way she could describe the need was through the number of students in the free to reduced lunch program.
Mills said when Danville schools calculated the number of students who qualified for free and reduced lunch in the 2015-16 school year, it came to 66 percent.
“So, well over half of their kids qualified based on family income,” she said.
This year, because the numbers were so high, she said Danville schools qualified for a special program that allows everyone in the district to receive free lunch and breakfast at school.
In Boyle County schools, she said a little over half of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch.
With all of that aside, regardless of finances, Kids Hope is available for any child.
“I don’t care how many digits are in the family income, no child is immune,” Mills said.
“Every kid matters,” Kidd said. “There are kids who come to school with all kinds of needs.”
She said some kids may have academic needs the mentor can help them with, and then there are ones who just need someone “to love them unconditionally no matter what.”
Even though a kid may have academic needs and work they bring to the hour mentoring session, “academic work is not the most important part of the hour,” she said. “Being there with them is the most important part of the hour.”
Kidd stressed several times during the training that it is extremely important for the mentors to know they are committing to meeting with their kid once a week at the school.
The commitment is made yearly, but she said it is highly suggested that the mentor stay with the same student in the program as long as they can.
“The kids have had people bail on them their whole life and they need someone who is reliable,” Kidd said.
SO YOU KNOW
To find out more about the Kids Hope USA mentoring program, visit kidshopeusa.org.