Giving the gift of time

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Taylorsville Elementary's mentor program utilizes community volunteers to reach students

By Deanna Godman

Taylorsville Elementary School has a program uniquely designed for volunteers to give back to the community in a big way. The mentoring program allows community members to interact with and make a difference in the lives of children who need help with their social development, behavioral issues or other problems.

The program started 6 years ago when the school became Taylorsville Elementary. The principal, Chuck Abell, brought the program with him from Washington County. The goal is to help 15-18 kids each year, depending on the number of volunteers. This year, there are 10 kids being reached by 8 mentors, and there is a waiting list of kids.

Kaye Lloyd, mentor coordinator for TES, actively looks for mentors in the community. She goes to committee meetings, speaks at churches, and posts fliers wherever she can to spread the word. A lot of the mentors come to her by word of mouth. One volunteer, Patrick Stevenson, walked in looking for volunteer opportunities.

“He walked in off the street, and said “What do you need me to do?’” said Lloyd. “He was looking for something to give back.”

This is Stevenson’s second year as a mentor.

“We have really developed a relationship,” said Stevenson. At the end of the last school year “he surprised me with these words: ‘Would you be my mentor?’”

“Our goal is for that mentor to stay with that child through high school,” said Lloyd.

Children are not pulled out of core content classes. The mentors meet with them during lunch and recess, which are back to back. They eat together in the mentoring room or at an outside picnic area, and then play games, read together or enjoy a hobby.

“I don’t want my kids to think  — oh, it’s another teacher,” said Lloyd. “I want someone they can be comfortable talking to.”

Stevenson incorporates learning into their activities, but he tries to make it fun. They play the basketball game “HORSE” but use that week’s spelling words.

“I try to incorporate teaching him something without making it obvious,” said Stevenson. “I didn’t want a whole hour to go by without him becoming a better person, but I became a better person.”

There is a real need for mentors, and Lloyd tries to make it simple for them to get started. Both the mentor and the child fill out surveys so they can get to know each other. Lloyd meets with them the first time and goes over the ground rules.

“The thought of it is more intimidating than actually doing it,” said Lloyd.
Richard Johns has been a mentor for 3 years. He used to work at the Kentucky Baptist Camp and thought that experience would help him. He and his student build models, put together puzzles, and play math games together, among other activities.

At the end of each year, Lloyd does a survey with the teachers to see how the program has helped the children. For most of the kids, their attention and attendance improve. The point of the program is not necessarily to improve grades, but to get the kids to connect to another person.

“If they’ve got someone here who says ‘Hey, how was your day?’ That’s
all I care about,” said Lloyd. “That makes such a big difference.”

“A lot of my kids are referred because they have a hard time making friends,” said Lloyd. She has found that the kids who meet at the same time are making friends with one another. “That door is opening.”

Stevenson wanted to give back to the community, but has found that he has received from the experience.

“This thing I was doing to give back has done more for me,” said

Stevenson. He finds that he is disappointed on breaks and snow days that the school is closed and he will not see students.

“We dig each other. We understand where we’re coming from,” said Stevenson

“It’s been one of the greatest things I’ve ever been involved in,” said Stevenson.

One important aspect of the program is that it is not seen as a reward for good behavior. Even if a child is having a bad week and getting in trouble or having other problems, the mentor visit still happens. The mentor may talk to the child about the issues, but reinforce that the relationship is still intact.

“You may have had a bad week, but we will still be here,” said Lloyd. “We use it as a teaching moment, not use it as a pawn.”

“There’s a lot of need with some of these kids,” said Johns. “They need someone who is willing to sit and listen to them and show concern.”

If you are interested in becoming a mentor at Taylorsville Elementary School, contact Kaye Lloyd at 502-477-3339.