Mentor program moves to new grant, seeks volunteers

Mentor program Project AIM will be starting its third year this fall, and volunteers are needed.
Previously funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education Grants for school-based mentoring programs, Project AIM will be moving under the Safe Schools Healthy Students grant umbrella.
“We appreciate the way the community has embraced the grant, and we’re looking forward to another year,” AIM Coordinator Cathy Curtis said. “We want people to know that mentoring opportunities are continuing under another grant.”
Curtis is currently accepting applications from people who wish to make a difference in the life of a child — grades three through eight — and who can donate just one hour a week to spending time with a child that will be hand-picked based on the application process.
“The crux of what we do is one-on-one mentoring that complements the student’s participation,” Curtis said. “The mentors usually spend the first 30 to 40 minutes helping the student with homework, then they spend the rest of their time playing games, talking and just getting to know each other.”
For those that are interested, but may not really understand the impact they can have by volunteering just one hour a week, Curtis assures that the effect is immense.
“As one of the program evaluator, I can say that Project AIM has been extremely successful. Project AIM is definitely having an impact in mentees’ lives and is a positive force in the Starkville community,” said Dr. John Bartkowski, adjunct professor with Mississippi State’s Dept. of Sociology. “A substantial proportion of student mentees have improved their performance in reading, language, science and math. In the first year of the program alone, over four in ten student mentees improved their performance in these courses. It usually takes several years to achieve these results.”
“The students in Project AIM are benefiting in personal ways, too. We tracked students’ self-esteem throughout the program. We are seeing improved self-concepts among students,” said Dr. Xiaohe Xu, who works closely with Bartkowski as an evaluator. “Teachers report greater academic commitment among mentees. Mentees are less intimidated by challenging assignments than they were before becoming involved in the program, and they are more willing to learn new skills in class.”
In addition to making a difference in a child’s life, mentors can look forward to having fun themselves. Mentor mentee groups participate in community service activities, and even enjoy end-of-the-year celebrations with live entertainment. This past year’s celebrate featured a juggler, plate spinner and motivational speaker. Students were presented with school readiness back packs filled with school supplies, snacks, magazines, puzzles and even new dress code-compliant shirts.
“In most cases, nearly 100 percent of mentors, students, and parents reported that they were satisfied with the program. These types of results are very difficult to achieve, and are a product of the commitment the Project AIM staff,” Xu explained. “It’s obvious how much they care about the students and mentors in Project AIM, as well as the parents whose children participate in the program.”
Still need convincing? Below are actual testimonials from real Project AIM mentors about the high points of their experience:
• “... establishing a life-long relationship and improved grades for the mentee.”
• “... the day he was so excited, he showed me his project grade. It was a 98. He was smiling from ear to ear.”
• “... when he asked if I would be his mentor again this year.”
• “... being able to progressively witness positive changes in my mentee’s life.”
• “... watching [my mentee] so intrigued by reading a book that he failed to realize the bell had rung.”
• “... discovering I could make a difference not only for the child I was mentoring, but for other children in the program.”
• “... my mentee telling me I was her best friend.”
• “... when [my mentee] invited me to come to all of his band recitals. He finally wanted me to be at the things he loves to do.”
• “... when my mentee sometimes asked if I could come twice a week instead of once.”

For those interested in mentoring, contact Cathy Curtis at (662) 418-4021