School district looking for mentors for Okeechobee students

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OKEECHOBEE– At their Feb. 9 meeting Okeechobee County School Board Members received a presentation on a new mentoring program the district is in the early stages of implementing.

The eventual goal of the Building Uniquely Diverse and Dynamic Youth (B.U.D.D.Y.) Mentoring Program is to provide a mentor to every student in the district and give community members the chance to be the mentor they wish they had. The pilot program will be implemented at Central Elementary for all fifth grade students.

According to data presented by Katharine Williams, Director of Mental Health and Behavioral Support, students who meet regularly with mentors are 46% percent less likely to start using illegal drugs and 52% less likely to skip a day of school.

Mentored students are 81% more likely to participate in sports or extracurricular activities and 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those without a mentor.

“Mentors provide critical support and students who meet regularly with them benefit in many ways,” explained Williams to school board members. “The percentage of students from low income families in Okeechobee ranges from 54% to 77%. Quality mentors are needed and would have a great impact on our students and our community.”

In the program each mentor would be assigned to their mentee by their school, meeting every week at the school site for a minimum of 30 minutes.

“Mentors will be filling a gap in the students lives,” said Williams. “Consistency and dedication is key to making a real difference. Mentors who are not committed can do more harm than good. So we want to be transparent about the commitment expectations of the program.”

Each prospective mentor must agree to a 12-hour training program consisting of four 3-hour sessions, and a one-year commitment to weekly visits with the mentee during a school day. Parents will be encouraged to meet with mentors prior to the first mentor/mentee visit and parental contact will be encouraged throughout the relationship.

After completing an application through the BUDDY program, mentors will then submit a volunteer application through the school district which includes a reference check, fingerprinting, criminal background check, and a face-to-face interview. Mentors will also compete a questionnaire designed to find points of compatibility with mentees.

For more information on the program reach out to Katharine Williams by email at williamsk@okee.k12.fl.us or fill out a mentor application by visiting https://bit.ly/BUDDYMentoring.

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