Laura Standard says her mentee Amy Nguyen was a “shy little sixth grader” when she first met her.
“Now she’s a confident young woman going to college at Georgia State,” Standard said.
Standard’s pride in the girl she has mentored for the past six years is evident in her face and in her voice. She could be speaking of her own child.
And she was not the only one with such pride on their face, such a tone in their voice as she sat around the table recently with other mentors, all of whom have a student they have cared for and spent time with, and who they will now watch walk down the aisle this weekend as Madison County High School Class of 2014 graduates.
Eight mentors with graduates gathered together at a “thank you” celebration given for them by Mentor Program director Shirley Aaron. Aaron said there are 21 mentees who will graduate class this year, thanks to efforts of 14 mentors.
Doyle and Helen Beatenbough, who’ve been mentoring the same young man since 2004, are also very proud of their graduate.
“It’s been confusing for me,” Mr. Beatenbough said smiling. “I thought we were supposed to be beneficial to our mentee, but it turns out he’s been more of a benefit for us. We are just so proud of him.”
“It’s been so wonderful to see him come from a little boy who needed some help to adulthood and turn into a fine young man,” Mrs. Beatenbough said.
Aaron said the change in their mentee has been remarkable. “This kid is going to make it, because of them,” she said.
Melanie Berryman, who is teen coordinator for a group for teen parents, and has been part of the mentor program since 2003, has three mentees graduating this year. “Melanie is my ‘right hand man,’” Aaron said.
Berryman said she was heartened after the mother of one of her past mentees (and a teen parent) posted on Facebook that, as a teen mother herself, she wished she had had someone like Berryman to turn to as a teen.
“That really meant a lot to me to read that,” Berryman said.
Mentor Beth Coker has been a mentor pretty much since the program started and has had many mentees. Her current mentee will graduate this year and plans to attend college in Warm Springs to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).
Coker said she is so proud of the girl, who she has mentored since the ninth grade. Most recently, she has helped her with her graduation invitations, but has been around for most of the milestones in her high school life, including taking her to get first her learner’s license and later her driver’s license.
“I am mostly just so proud of what she is doing for herself,” Coker said. Coker is the mother of two sons and says she enjoys mentoring girls. “It gives me the experience of talking with them, shopping, prom and other things,” she said smiling.
She thinks of the mentoring program as a way to help kids see another life than the one they may have experienced so far. “It’s like going down a road with a rut on either side, you can’t see anyway to go but the way you’re going – the mentoring program brings someone into your life that helps you to see another way besides that road,” she said.
Mentor and retired teacher Joyce Duncan has been a mentor to her graduate since the end of her first grade year. “I took to it (mentoring) like a duck to water,” she said. “I’ve tried to be a role model to her, teaching her manners and things like actions have consequences and I’ve pushed the importance of education.”
Duncan said her mentee is an “excellent student.”
“She has worked hard and she has just blossomed,” she said. “She has her head on straight and I like to think it’s meant something to her to have someone care for her, and I do, I am so proud of her.”
Patti Dobbs and her mentee Brianna Coile share a fun-loving relationship.
“The first thing I think of when I think of Brianna is ‘laughter,’” Dobbs said. “She’s just a fun person to be around, she always makes me laugh and there’s not a shy bone in her body.”
Coile, who came with Dobbs to the celebration, said Dobbs was actually the shy one of the pair.
Coile said because of her experience with Dobbs, she’d like to be a mentor one day. “She amazing, she’s like a second mom to me,” she said.
The pair has been together since August 2003, when Coile was in elementary school.
Mentor Leigh Anne Aaron works at UGA’s county extension office as a family and consumer sciences agent and has mentored “at risk” students for the past several years through a grant program. Seven of those students will graduate this year.
“They feel like my family,” L. Aaron said. She goes and meets with students after school where they spend time together or simply sit and do homework.
“At first I thought ‘I’m not smart enough to tutor these students,’ but then I realized they didn’t need a tutor so much as they needed affirmation from somebody and it helped them just to have a space and time of their own to do their homework,” she said. “They didn’t need me to be an instructor, they needed support; they needed a friend not a tutor.”
She has enjoyed the mentoring program so much that she takes on the job as coordinator of the mentor program June 1, and acts as an assistant to director Shirley Aaron.
Nguyen, Standard’s mentee, also accompanied her to the celebration and said Standard has given her the gift of “hope.”
“I look at my life now and see hope,” she said. “Ms. Laura has instilled that in me – hope.”
Her family is from Vietnam and Cambodia and she will be the first one to graduate from high school and go to college. “I hope I am a role model for my baby sisters,” she said. “I want them to realize, as Ms. Laura has helped me to do, that there is a brighter future out there if they just reach for it.”
Nguyen plans to become a nurse practitioner.
“I’ve always tried to give her college as a possibility,” Standard said. “She was really struggling in the sixth through ninth grade and I kept talking to her – four more years, three more years, two more years…you can do it. It’s so beautiful to see where she is now.”
Standard was planning Nguyen’s first party ever – a graduation party for about 20 friends at her house that weekend.
Coile, Dobbs’ mentee, agreed with Nguyen and said it was so important to know there was somebody there for her. “I know Ms. Patti is there for me,” she said. “I can depend on that, and that is really something.”
For more information about the mentoring program, email Aaron at email@example.com or call 706-338-3689.
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