Mentor a child, make a difference

By Allen T. Coffey - Guest Column
Jan. 6, 2018 at 5:12 p.m.
Updated Jan. 7, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Allen T. Coffey

Allen T. Coffey   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

Christmas is gone for another year. The new year is here. Most people are recovering from the holidays and taking stock of the gifts they have received and the fun that they've had. School is soon to start again with all the activities and work that involves for students and teachers. Life will begin once more to move at its regular pace.

Even though the holidays are over, you can still give a gift to someone who needs your unique talents, perspective and concern more than you know. The gift? Become a mentor for a struggling child in our schools. That's right. You can help a young person do better in school, have a better outlook on life and do better as an adult by volunteering to help him or her on a one-on-one basis once a week for 45 minutes.

We know this because here at the Victoria Business and Education Coalition we have been providing mentors for the Victoria Independent School District since 2002. Our program - Mentor Connect - has helped hundreds of struggling students make it through to graduation ready to go work, training or college. Our program is staffed entirely by volunteers - volunteers like you who donate their time and care to help a child become a better student, person and, finally, adult.

Debbie Polzin has been involved with Mentor Connect for two years, and she finds that she is filling an important need in VISD: "I decided to be a mentor because my daughter is a teacher in the district. That has made me aware of the need for outside support and within the community to help students in need of one-on-one support outside of the classroom setting."

Polzin also realizes she is making a life-changing difference in her mentee's life: "I feel that I bring positive support to the child in a one-on-one setting and the ability to build a positive, trusting and nurturing relationship to the student."

This "positive trusting and nurturing relationship" is at the heart of VBEC's Mentor Connect program. Caring, supportive adults can make a real lasting difference in the lives of struggling children when they take the initiative to reach out and become a mentor through VBEC.

A mentor can assist struggling children as an academic coach, helping them with their class work, encouraging them to make good grades, assisting in understanding assignments or problems and demonstrating effective ways to achieve success in the classroom. Another option is life coach - providing guidance by listening and sharing with the student, providing constructive advice on handling tough situations and just being a good friend. And finally, there is the option of being a college coach - there to help a student pursue the next stage in life by assisting in college applications, reviewing information for college and working with the family.

And no matter which option one chooses, caring mentors commit to the success of the students they work with each week. This type of involved caring produces the satisfaction mentors experience from knowing they are helping their students reach their full potential.

In addition to applying with us, mentors must take an online training course found on our website and pass a DPS criminal background check to work in VISD.

You can become a mentor by going to our website, vbectx.org, and selecting the Mentor Connect button at the top; calling 361-572-8283; or coming by our office at 3404 N. Ben Wilson St. between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

VBEC currently has mentors at six VISD campuses: Hopkins, Chandler and Crain elementary schools and Patti Welder, Stroman and Howell middle schools.

Allen T. Coffey, AmeriCorps VISTA public relations specialist, Victoria Business and Education Coalition, is a native of Victoria and a retired minister. He holds a B.A. from the University of Houston-Victoria and an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He may be contacted at 361-572-8232.


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