As the new school year is approaching quickly, so is the need for volunteers with the Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program.
According to Program Coordinator Elly Zhilyak, the program currently has 29 mentors and serves 10 local schools — Anne Street Elementary, Atkinson Elementary, Moore Elementary, Jackson Road Elementary, Rehoboth Road Middle, Kennedy Road Middle, Cowan Road Middle, Griffin High, Spalding High and A.Z. Kelsey.
“Sixty would be a great number,” said Zhilyak when asked about her goal as to the number of mentors she would like to have in place when the new school year starts. “Each school should have at least 10 mentors, but that number is filled based on need and availability.”
The key idea behind the Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program, which kicked off in January 2013, is to connect students with mentors who can guide and support them.
“It’s a direct way to affect your immediate environment and have a positive impact on children that will grow up to be members of our society sooner rather than later,” Zhilyak said.
“If we don’t step in to make a positive impact, the chances of someone stepping in to make a negative impact is that much greater,” she added. “I think it is important to empower the up-and-coming generation with the tools they need to function their best in their personal and professional lives. There is no better way to do this than to mentor.”
There are certain requirements to become a mentor for the local schools — beginning with an application that can be found at gscmentor.org, a background check and an orientation training for which dates will be announced soon.
In addition of being at least 18-years old, mentors must also commit to visiting their assigned student at least once a week for a minimum of one hour per week throughout the school year.
“Not everyone can become a mentor, however, you can be an advocate,” said Zhilyak. “You may know someone who has the time, the heart and the willingness to be a mentor. Tell them about the program or suggest they become a mentor. That will be more helpful than you can possibly know. Help us spread the word.”
Zhilyak also pointed out that the mentor program’s website allows members of the community to donate to the cause, as funds will be used for training materials and books, among other things.
For those who decide to join the program, there will be monthly mentor meet-ups to help support the mentors and provide them with a sense of community, said Zhilyak, adding that mentors will also receive more training, such as the Stewards of Children training.
The Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program has pages on Facebook (gscmentorprogram), Twitter (@GSCSMentorVillage) and Instagram (gscmentorprogram), plus a Facebook group page for those who start mentoring as another place to create a sense of community for mentors, Zhilyak said.