Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jan 17, 2018

Mentors visit Pence for Christmas party

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Dec 21, 2017
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photos FHS At-risk Counselor Justin Copeland, back left, and Pence Elementary School Counselor Taryn Mottet, back right, hand out cookies to FHS students Drew Martin, left, and Reese Klehm, and Pence student Blake Ballew during Wednesday’s Christmas party at Pence.

A group of Fairfield High School students paid a visit to Pence Elementary School Wednesday afternoon for a Christmas party.

Fifty-four high school students participate in the district’s mentoring program. Half of them are paired with students from Pence Elementary, and the other half are paired with students from Washington Elementary. Washington Elementary will have its mentoring Christmas party today.

Students young and old gathered in Pence’s art room, where they decorated sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles. After they had finished making their desserts, each mentor-mentee pair played board games, put together puzzles, or chatted about the upcoming holiday break. Washington students and their mentors plan to create Christmas ornaments and play games, too.

FHS mentors meet with their elementary students once a week, so they have ample opportunity to get to know one another and develop a bond. FHS success/at-risk counselor Justin Copeland is in charge of the mentoring program, and said this year marks a big jump in high school participation.

Part of the reason so many FHS students want to be mentors is because Copeland made a concerted effort to recruit them. It’s a good thing he did, too, because it has allowed more elementary students to participate, too.

“The elementary students really look up to their mentors and enjoy their weekly meetings,” he said. “We try to pair students who have similar interests, like sports or being outdoors.”

Copeland said the young ones start to get worried if their high-schooler is late, or they’re afraid the older student can’t come that day. Since the elementary students and their mentors have established such a close friendship, Copeland plans to keep the pairs together next year for all returning students.

Mentoring an elementary student earns a high-schooler 20 hours of community service per year. But the mentors care about much more than fulfilling a graduation requirement. Pence Elementary School Counselor Taryn Mottet said many high-schoolers bought Christmas presents for their mentee.

“It’s amazing how generous the students are,” Mottet said. “We’d like to have another party at the end of the school year, perhaps where the elementary students visit the high school.”

Copeland said the mentors and mentees usually meet at the elementary schools. The district does not provide transportation for the program, so mentors have to be able to drive or hitch a ride.

 

Mentors and mentees

Junior Bailey Travis is in her second year as a mentor. She became a mentor because she loves children and is considering a career in teaching. She said mentoring is a great program.

Third-grader Chloe Stevens is her mentee. Stevens said she enjoys playing games and reading books with Travis, and joked about how she doesn’t mind missing class, either.

Senior Lucia Van Dijk mentors second-grader Shailah Hootman. Hootman said her favorite activity to do with her mentor is to play with Playdough. Van Dijk said she joined the program because she wanted to help a young person. She said that the district was looking for mentors at the beginning of the year, and she thought, “Why not?” Her favorite activity is yard bowling with a nerf ball.

Hootman said she likes to read, and hopes Van Dijk will someday read her the book “Pete the Cat,” Hootman’s favorite.

Junior Reese Klehm is paired with third-grader Blake Ballew. They are both very active, preferring to play games outside or run around in the gym playing dodgeball. Ballew said his favorite thing to do with Klehm is shoot hoops.

Klehm said he’s glad he became a mentor, and that it’s much more rewarding than sitting through study hall, where he’d be if he were not a mentor.

He said he’s built a friendship with Ballew, and plans to continue mentoring him next year.

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