What began as a brainstorming session at the beginning of the school year has transformed into a strong partnership between Fairgrieve Elementary School students and members of G. Ray Bodley’s Helping Other People Everywhere (HOPE) Club.
According to club adviser and GRB teacher Cathy Cronk, members of the HOPE Club started the school year discussing different activities that could make an impact on a variety of levels.
While the group opted for its staple projects such as the winter mitten drive and a food collection for the Salvation Army Food Pantry, club members began thinking outside the box to develop ideas that would really affect local schoolchildren.
“Every year we try to have projects that are something organic, dynamic that comes from the club members,” Cronk said. “We said, ‘What can we do to make a difference?’ and that’s when the idea of a student mentoring program began.”
Cronk said she discussed the idea with Fairgrieve Elementary School Principal Jean Ciesla, who was receptive of the idea.
“I told her that I had some great kids who would love to serve as mentors,” Cronk said. “It was a quick conversation that evolved into something fantastic.”
To help develop the program and train the mentors, Fairgrieve’s school/home liaison Ariana Suhr stepped up to the plate. She provided training that taught the mentors how to handle any kind of difficult circumstance that may arise and how to relate to different students.
“They really learned how to be a mentor; not a parent, not a teacher,” Cronk said. “They learned how to communicate well and how to listen well.”
The program matches 17 HOPE Club members with Fairgrieve Elementary School students in first through fifth grades.
They are paired up based on interest inventories that the mentors and mentees each had to complete. The group will meet several times through the end of the school year, with each hour-long session consisting of games, one-on-one conversations and group activities.
“We are hoping that if the kids can have the same mentor for two or three years,” Cronk said, noting that the program has the potential to make a significant impact on everyone involved. “For Fairgrieve, I think they’ll see some immediate positive outcomes from their students and I’ll see the same here. I think our kids are going to grow. They’ll be able to open their eyes and make connections with people that they may not have otherwise met.”