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Project AIM connects local mentors, students

July 21, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
sdnedu@bellsouth.net

This week, Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman became a proud father.

Born July 18, Amelia Nell Wiseman will eventually grow into a student with homework to study, careers to consider and problems to solve, and when she does, Parker Wiseman will be ready. She is the Wisemans’ first-born, but the mayor already has experience mentoring a child.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with Jaylyric Petty for the past three years,” Parker Wiseman said. “He will begin his second year at Starkville High in the fall. We’ve worked a lot of math problems, making me realize how much I’ve forgotten over the years. We’ve also talked about growing up, career goals, family and life in general. I hope the experience has brought something positive to Jaylyric’s life. It’s given me a friend, and that is priceless to me.”

Parker Wiseman and Petty met through the Achievement Involving Mentoring (AIM) Project, a division of the Starkville School District’s Family Centered Programs.

Joan Butler, Family Centered Programs director, said mentors who invest their time in young people through AIM can change lives. There are currently 62 mentor-mentee pairs active in AIM, she said, and they meet for one hour per week during the school year, with opportunities to communicate by phone, email or other means during the summer with parental consent.

“Every year, we’re assessing the impact of the program on our students, (and) it has shown every year to be highly successful,” Butler said. “It couldn’t be made possible without the wonderful support from our community, the volunteers who are the mentors. I would really like to see more mentoring going on in our schools, because I think it really has such great potential. I just think it’s one of the most powerful tools we’re able to use in education to reach young people.”

Butler said those interested in becoming mentors can call 662-615-0033. Mentors go through a background check followed by orientation training, she said.

“Then we look carefully at the student mentees and find out the students’ interests and try to find common interests that would make a good match in talents and abilities,” Butler said.

Martha Wells said she began mentoring Makayla McCarter when she was in fourth grade, and she is now a rising eighth grader. Wells did not know what to expect going in, she said, but AIM provided helpful resources, and she built a strong relationship with McCarter from day one.

“She was easy to talk to and was a good listener,” Wells said. “She always seemed intensely interested in whatever subject we chose to discuss that day. Initially, we exchanged pictures of our favorite people and things, worked on math and reading skills and played table games. Checkers was her favorite, as she often played with her grandfather.”

McCarter said mentoring is special to her because Wells has taught her many things she didn’t know.
“I love her so much for helping me all these years,” McCarter said. “Mentoring is a fun and helpful place for your children to be because the people you meet are very kind and caring.”

Wells said she has been amazed to watch McCarter mature. She said McCarter is not only developing academically, with genuine interest in her school work, but also athletically, with involvement in sports.
“Games have moved from checkers to chess,” Wells said. “Our conversations are more serious now as we talk about what the future holds for her. It has been a pleasure to work with her, and I hope that I have made a difference in her life; she has in mine.”

Ranjita Bandi said she began mentoring Flavia Gallegos, a rising 12th grader, three years ago. Bandi said those three years have been one of her best experiences ever, and the time flies by whenever the two meet.

“I remember the first time Flavia and I met,” Bandi said. “She was quiet, shy, not open. Now we talk about everything (and) anything, and she can talk forever, if you let her. I’m so proud of who she’s become, and I’m blessed to be a small part of her life. I’ve made a friend, a little sister.”

Gallegos said Bandi is like family to her as well. She said the mentoring relationship has changed her life, and she believes mentoring can change the lives of others as well.

“She’s more than a friend and is definitely my big sister,” Gallegos said. “Mentoring, to me, means caring, teaching and guiding another person. Ranjita has taught me a lot and been there for me countless times.”
Another mentor, Angela Clinton, said she first met mentee Krea Self in sixth grade, and they have worked together for three years. Clinton said she not only taught Self life lessons but also learned from her; while Clinton helped Self with reading, Self gave Clinton fashion tips.

“My proudest moment was during the second year, when Krea and I went out for ice cream and talked about her career goals,” Clinton said. “After I said goodbye to her at her mother’s house, I headed home only to notice a piece of paper on the floor board of my vehicle. It was a handwritten letter from Krea explaining how much my presence has meant to her life and how grateful she was to have me as a second teacher to her.”

Self said she also discovered Clinton was a relative of hers, and Clinton helped her not only with school work but also personal problems.

“I especially liked mentoring because I could talk to Ms. Angelia about anything,” Self said, “including girl ‘stuff.’”

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