Mentors helping students to succeed

Sonny Long

Jan. 22, 2011 at 3 p.m.
Updated Jan. 21, 2011 at 7:22 p.m.

Seth Stuart paused when he came to a word in the book he was reading that he wasn't sure how to pronounce.

"Sound it out," prompted Rob Davis, Seth's mentor through the HOSTS (Help One Student To Succeed) program at Hopkins Academy.

"I," began the third-grader, sounding the first vowel.

"Tal. I. Tal," he continued. "Italian."

"Good job," said Davis as Seth beamed and continued reading.

Davis, an assistant branch manager for Capital One Bank, is one of more than 200 Victoria adults who are taking part in the mentoring program through Sure B.E.T. (Business and Education Together).

"It's an opportunity to be part of the community," said Davis. "Ultimately, that's why I've been doing it. To give back and to help the kids."

Seth, 9, appreciates his mentors.

"They help me with my reading. When I miss a word, they tell me what I missed," he said. "When we do word bank, I learn how to use the words. They help me a lot."

As a volunteer, Davis gets his reward from seeing the student he is working with improve.

"To see them get through a book and overcome some of the words they've struggled with in the past and they blow right through them. It's fun to see their excitement," he said.

Davis is one of nine Capital One Bank employees taking part in the program.

Rhonda Fotiades, Sure B.E.T. executive director, would like to see other companies answer the mentoring challenge like Capital One Bank has done. She said that students from Victoria College and the University of Houston-Victoria are also among the active mentors.

"We would like to encourage other businesses to adopt a similar mission in order to help students in need of assistance to succeed," she said.

That success is measurable, Fotiades said.

During the past three years, almost 100 percent of the third grade students who were enrolled in this program at Hopkins Academy passed the reading portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.

During the same period, about 84 percent of the ninth-grade students who were enrolled in the program passed the math portion of the test, touted Fotiades.

Felicia Sledge, HOSTS coordinator and instructor at Hopkins, has also seen firsthand what mentoring has meant for her students. There are 40 students at Hopkins in the HOSTS program.

"It's been wonderful to have a program where people not only talk the talk, but walk the walk and do what it takes to help the community," Sledge said. "They become a part of the students' lives and the students become a part of theirs. It's just exciting to see a program like this that works for the whole community."

"To see their growth is exciting," continued Sledge. "They feel successful and then take it back to the classroom and continue the success there."

January is the 10th anniversary of National Mentoring Month - with the theme "Help Them Get There. Become a Mentor" - and Fotiades said there is no better time to get involved.

Sure B.E.T. is hosting an open house Tuesday to introduce the public to its mentoring program.

"I am so excited about what is going on in our schools in the Victoria school district right now," she said. "The pendulum has swung back in a positive direction."



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