Mentor program needs boost from volunteers
Pasadena school officials are sounding the call for a few good mentors."
The district's volunteer-supported elementary level mentoring program, Helping One Student to Succeed, or HOSTS, is in high demand, though participation has dropped. Program Coordinator Ginger Lay said this is surprising, given that HOSTS presents one opportunity for people to give back without having to donate any money.
With our recession and the economy, people don't have the money to give, but they still want to do something valuable," she said. Through HOSTS they're giving us this precious thing called time."
Pasadena ISD's HOSTS program is an arm of the national mentoring program of the same name, which was brought to the district in 1994 and is one of the largest HOSTS group in the country. The Pasadena ISD School Board has found that students who participate in the program are more likely to graduate and move on to higher education than their at-risk peers who do not.
Currently, 19 schools within Pasadena ISD participate in HOSTS. District elementary schools involved in the Helping One Student to Succeed program include: Freeman, Matthys, Gardens, McMasters, Garfield, Morales, Genoa, Parks, Golden Acres, Pomeroy, Kruse, L.F. Smith, South Houston, South Shaver, Sparks, Stuchbery, Williams and Young.
The program boasts 500 adult volunteers, and a number of junior" volunteers who come from middle and high schools in the district. But Lay said these numbers are not enough to provide mentoring help for every student. The district is calling on residents to help fill the void, by volunteering as little as 30 minutes a week.
The focus of HOSTS is to improve student reading skills, though recently some mentors have began helping students with math as well.
If a student can read, he can do anything," Lay said.
By mentoring a child on their lunch break, HOSTS volunteers can make the difference between passing and failing a course. Lay said oftentimes knowing that one person cares that a student succeed can give that student the motivation to stay in school. Not only does this benefit the student, but also the entire community by ensuring that students grow into productive adults.
The HOSTS program is unique in that it seeks volunteers from all backgrounds. No formal education or higher degree is required.
I want everyday people too who can share their life experiences," Lay said.
She said students learn valuable lessons through the life experiences of their mentors, as well as learning more about the world around them.
The students involved in the HOSTS program are considered at-risk," which is often accompanied by difficult life circumstances. Learning through a mentor that there are different life paths they can travel can make all the difference.
HOSTS volunteers are given a lesson plan to work with that is prepared ahead of time by program staff. Most volunteers are matched with a single student whom they mentor for the year, which includes about 24 mentoring sessions. Most sessions are scheduled in the morning hours Monday through Thursday, with a few slated for Fridays.
The time slots are structured to coincide with lunch breaks for most working adults.
The district is asking all members of the community to find the time to Help One Student to Succeed.
For more information, or to volunteer, visit www.pasadenaisd.org or call 713-740-0051.