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Mansfield ISD Starts Connect Mentor Program
December 16, 2022
The Summit varsity basketball team towers over tiny elementary students while they play a game of knockout on the basketball court during the third graders’ recess. The students watch their every move in amazement, soaking up techniques they can use to make new friends and deal with hard emotions.
Mansfield ISD has implemented Connect Mentorships, a student-to-student mentoring program that allows high school students to mentor elementary or intermediate students or classrooms. Facilitator of Connect Mentorships, Mindi Hulme established this program this year after the creation of the Behavior Intervention Team.
“I felt like it was definitely something that our team could use to help kids with. Not just changing their behaviors at the moment, but really making a shift and just how they operate, how they self-manage. This is the first year of us having this behavior intervention team, so we’ve just started with this. We came up with the name “Connect” because we really want to make that connection between the mentor and the mentee,” Mrs. Hulme said. “We want to make that connection between the kid who’s getting mentored and why they should self-manage the benefits of it, how it makes you feel better. It’s just a positive way to live.”
Any student and school in the district is eligible for the program. Mentoring students must be able to provide their own transportation and have a letter of recommendation from either an AP, teacher, coach or advisor. Attend mandatory training and consistently go to their assigned campus at their designated time and be a positive mentor to the mentee’s life.
“We are expanding, we started out with some athletic teams because when we talk and identify kids who need mentors, a lot of times we’ll try to figure out what their interests are. And so the majority of them were like, I want to be an athlete of some sort either a basketball player or football player. So we kind of started with those groups because we knew they would connect that way,” Mrs. Hulme said. “But we also have kids needing mentors who are like, I like art, I like computers. I want to play an instrument someday. And so we’re branching out to different areas trying to find kids who have different interests”
Students who want to participate can sign up using the Connect Mentoring Interest Form. After the completion of the form, names are submitted to their home campus to confirm participation in the program. Mrs. Hulmes conducts mandatory training all participants are required to attend. She will attend the participant’s first session to aid in the introduction of the mentor and mentees.
“I’m there for the first introduction, the introductory session, and just kinda set the tone with them, put both the mentor and the mentee at ease, and just kind of introduce while we’re there and just kind of just get them started. So it just feels better. It’s more comfortable, so then next time they go they can just get started with it,” Mrs. Hulme said. “We try to make it fun and something that the kids look forward to.”
Students are matched based on the interest of both the mentor and mentee and the needs the mentee might have. Mrs. Hulme reminisces on a student that needed a positive role model and just one on one time spent with her.
“After the introductory session, the little girl at the end ended up sharing some real personal struggles that she’s having. And the mentor was like, these are my same struggles like that’s my story too,” Mrs. Hulme said. “And so I didn’t know about either of these girls’ struggles but it ended up being a perfect match. So that is something that we do strive for, but sometimes it just happens. And it is really precious when it does.”
Principal’s secretary, Cheryl Newton, at D.P Morris Elementary School welcomed the Summit High School varsity basketball team with open arms. The staff has seen an improvement in the student’s behavior since the team began coming.
“We have a lot of students that need those role models on how to be a good student and how to be a good person in general. And so what better way than to have someone close to their age but also somebody they can look up to in high school and sports,” Newton said, “so it was a good fit for us. We’ve seen some kids getting really excited whenever they are coming or they know that they’re coming. They get excited for them. We can also use it to help with behavior. What would your mentor say about this situation? And so they’re learning and they’re processing what the mentors say.”
Varsity basketball player, senior Isaiah Manning, volunteers at Mary Jo Shepard for one on one time with one of the students. Manning follows his student to his classes and helps him with his work. Together they demonstrate problem-solving skills that can be applied to the student’s everyday life.
“He is a real person that has real struggles, it makes him really relatable, even though he is so much younger than me,” Manning said. “When I am there I try to set a good example, to demonstrate productive anger management skills and strategies to deal with our anger, because I get where he is coming from.”
The goal of the program is for the mentor to develop a positive relationship through interaction, support and role modeling with his/her mentee or class.
“This program has been really impactful so far. Just to have someone that has been where you haven’t been before and has dealt with things you are going through now,” Hulme said. “That’s really what a mentor is: someone that listens to you, has been where you haven’t been, and just wants the best for you. And is able to just listen to what you’re going through and maybe give you some advice on what you could do. That’s why I think this peer-to-peer student mentoring works so well because you know, they’re not your disciplinarian. They’re not your teacher. They’re not grading you. They’re really just there for you.”