One hour. Once a week. For one year.
That’s the commitment it would take to make a difference in the life of one of Wyoming’s neediest youth, according to organizers of a new, citywide mentoring program that seeks to match 1,100 children with a mentor for a year.
The new program, called One Wyoming One on One, is a collaboration of Wyoming businesses, parents, churches, schools, and community leaders that seeks to connect the youth with positive adult mentors.
All of the community’s public schools, including Godfrey Lee, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville and Wyoming, are participating in the program.
The project’s kick-off will be May 15, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Godwin Heights High School Auditorium, 50 35th Street. Everyone who lives, works and studies in Wyoming is invited to the event, which will include a presentation by Kris Mathis, a motivational speaker and best-selling author of “From Success to Significance.”
Relationships first, homework second
Sarah Schantz, Community School Coordinator at North Godwin Elementary, said the program comes after organizers met for more than a year to determine how to best address the community’s high incidence of poverty and its effects in Wyoming’ youth.
“These children need a positive relationship. Reading, math and tutors come later. We need people who can make a difference in these kids’ life. The educational aspects will follow. Our first priority is that relationship piece.”
It takes a village
Project organizer Jack Ponstine said one and a half years ago, church leaders from the CRC and RCA wanted to increase the number of churches in the community. But they soon found out that the needs of the community were much larger.
The group expanded to business, educators and city leaders searching for a way to make an impact in the community.
In October last year, they defined the group’s mission as a collaboration to solve community needs and determined that a mentoring program had the potential to make the highest impact on the community.
“In the schools, there are so many single parent homes, parents working two jobs and things like that, that the biggest need is to support them,” Ponstine said.
But as the school districts evaluated how many students would need a mentor, it became clear the number would reach around 1,100, about 10 percent of the schools’ population and would require a massive number of mentors.
So they went back to the community and divided up. Schools would have to come up with some mentors themselves, but so would churches, businesses, the city and other community organizations.
“All of a sudden 1,100 seemed manageable,” Ponstine said. “It really feels like the whole community has come together for this single purpose and we all have a share in it. I’ve been working in community organizing for 15 years and I’ve never been part of something so comprehensive, so strong, so a part of the community. It is really exciting,” he said.
“We’re not trying to do everything at once, said Wyoming Public Schools Superintendent Tom Reeder. “We’re trying to help the children in the area with what they want help with. Maybe they want help with their job skills; maybe they want help with their schoolwork. Everybody is going to share their expertise,” he said. This is a program to support our families.”
During the event Wednesday, organizers hope to inspire those who have already signed up and resolve any doubts others may have.