The future looks bright for students in Bay District Schools, as the classroom mentoring program continues to grow with support from Naval Support Activity Panama City, Tyndall Air Force Base and the Panama City Beach Chamber.
“The more we can expose students to success stories, to reach out and talk to students, then the better the success,” Superintendent Bill Husfelt said.
The classroom mentoring program aims to empower students to see new possibilities in their future. U.S. Navy EMC (SW) Oral Sutherland has been involved with the program since it began in October 2009.
“Last year, it was a pilot program,” Sutherland said. “Now we are having more control over the project.”
He said there are 26 mentors from NSA PC this year, more than double the number of sailors involved during the 2009-2010 academic year. Sutherland has added quarterly meetings for the mentors, as well as more training.
“Looking at the environment these sailors are going to be in and the ages, we try to foresee what could happen and train on it,” Sutherland said.
“The military always has been helpful in the community, and the chamber wanted to get more involved in education, Husfelt said. “It’s really worked out well.”
About 30 mentors from Tyndall Air Force Base with Master Sgt. Bill Fortenberry are involved with the program.
“What makes us different is we are working with a group of students instead of individuals,” said Lisa Adams, chairwoman for the Panama City Beach Chamber’s Education Partnership Committee.
Husfelt felt the classroom mentoring program was an opportunity to touch more students at one time.
“There are so many children that just don’t have a true relationship with an adult,” Husfelt said. “There’s not enough mentors for every child to have one on one.”
He said the primary goal was to reach students in ninth and 10th grades.
“That’s the group we’re losing,” Husfelt said.
Mentors have been visiting classrooms at Arnold, Bozeman, Mosley, Rutherford, Bay and Rosenwald high schools, as well as C.C. Washington Academy, once or twice a month.
“It helps by being part of a team in the classroom setting, but at the end of the day, it is the individual,” said Erica Spivey, Panama City Beach Chamber member and director of development for the Children’s Home Society, Emerald Coast Division.
The chamber’s mission is to encourage local business leaders to share with students how they got to be where they are today.
“We get to share the journey of being business leaders with a different background and setting,” Spivey said.
Mentors also can bring in guest speakers to talk to the students about putting skills to use in the real world.
“The curriculum is about helping students see beyond where they are now and seeing where they can go,” Adams said.
Panama City Beach Chamber member Ron Sharpe, regional resource development director of the United Way of Northwest Florida, has been working with students in Missy Ausec’s class at Mosley High School. At Sharpe’s request, the advisory committee with SWAT, a division of the Bay County Health Department, came out to talk to the class about the dangers of smoking.
Spivey has been a mentor in Coach Sharon Gilson’s classroom at Bay High School and is looking for more sports role models as guest speakers.
“You never know what you are going to say to someone to make them believe in themselves,” Gilson said. “If it weren’t for my coach growing up telling me I would do something, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college.”
Gilson teaches intensive reading at Bay High School in addition to coaching the junior varsity and varsity cheerleaders.
“Having the mentors come in, especially, lets them know there are opportunities in the community,” Gilson said on
Nov. 19, while taking a quick break from coaching cheerleading.
She said many of her students have gotten involved in the community, volunteering, “and their grades are better.”
On Nov. 16, Spivey noticed the boys becoming more engaged in the classroom through an exercise, Reality Check, divided them into groups to answer questions such as “Do you know how to make a good impression on others?” and “Do you know what employers are looking for when hiring?”
“We give them every opportunity,” Gilson said.
The mentors talk about life skills, such as how to balance a checkbook. If they don’t know the answers to some skills, it is about teaching them resources to find out that information.
“A lot of it requires them asking adults questions,” Spivey said.
Gilson incorporates Spivey into the co-ed classroom of about
25 students by bringing her into what they already are working on.
“We start with a curriculum but students start opening up,” Spivey said. “Trust is established.”
The Panama City Beach Chamber is seeking mentors.
“We all come with unique gifts,” Sharpe said. “We want mentors of all races, ages, different talents.”
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, call Kristopher McLane at the Panama City Beach Chamber at 850-235-1159.
Story Credit: JAN WADDY from The News Herald
Photo Credit: TERRY BARNER from The News Herald