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Mentor group brings sense of belonging, accountability

Comstock Park — On Wednesday mornings spring semester a group of Mill Creek Middle School boys met regularly for camaraderie and donuts with Mandy Bernal Hill, school social worker and previously a community policing officer for Plainfield Township; and deputy Jose Douglas from the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. 

Eighth-grader Xavier Whiting said his mom wanted him to socialize more with other students. He enjoyed meeting with the group to “open up about stuff,” he said. He found it helpful to talk with members of the group, some of whom are in most of his classes.

“It’s just fun,” Xavier said.

The goal of the group that formed in December, Bernal-Hill said, was to work with boys “who may need help with their confidence, those who may be struggling with behavior issues, or just in need of extra support and guidance.” 

She got Douglas involved, she said, because she felt the boys needed a male role model.

The group has talked about grades, homework, communicating with others and being respectful. They recently learned how to tie neckties. In early May, they constructed bird feeders and hung them in the middle school courtyard. They were responsible to restock bird seed and refill the birdbath in an effort to teach them to take pride in their work.

Bernal-Hill said the mentor program gives students accountability and a sense of belonging.  

She said students for the group are selected by their school counselor.  The group has grown since December from four to eight students, she said, adding she hopes to add more boys next year and a second group at Comstock Park High School.

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Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry covers Comstock Park. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in the mid-1980s and has been a resident of Comstock Park since 2002. She understands the complexity, rewards and challenges of the teaching profession as she has five years of experience as a high school teacher at River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich. and St. Stephen High School in Saginaw. As a reporter for the Advance Newspapers and Mlive she covered Sparta, Kent City and Northview schools. She is happy to be a part of the great team of journalists at School News Network and writing about Comstock Park Public Schools. She is a graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School in St Joseph, Michigan and Central Michigan University. Read Karen's full bio

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