The Marietta Monitoring for Leadership program is marking National Mentoring Month with a campaign to draw new volunteers to motivate students in city schools.
Marge Kellogg, the program’s executive director, said it was started two years ago this month by Beverly McAfee.
They currently serve approximately 60 students in sixth through 12th grades enrolled in the Marietta City Schools district. The program recruits and trains mentors, and the number of children assisted is determined by the number of mentors who volunteer.
“We are in need of mentors, specifically male mentors,” Kellogg said. “We look for people who can open doors for kids and encourage them and motivate them to go beyond their high school education.”
The mentors are typically working with students recommended by a school administrator or teacher.
“They are students who have a lot of potential but could use the extra support and role model in their lives,” she said.
Mentors are asked to meet with students at least once a month and be there to support them through their senior year.
So far, Kellogg said it has been “really successful.”
“Most of the students, 80 to 85 percent of them, do show significant gains once they do get into the program. It helps them get on track,” she said about their academics.
In addition to that, 80 percent of the students currently enrolled should be promoted to the next grade, and about 90 percent of the seniors are on track to graduate on time this spring.
The nonprofit is funded mostly by a large contribution from Walton Communities, small grants and, until recently, by federal Title I funds.
However, Kellogg said the program lost the Title I funding, but Marietta City Schools “generously” offered to pick up the $15,000 loss by contributing a portion of the five-year Coca-Cola beverage sales collections to the program.
Keasha Dean says the program has made a difference in her son’s life.
Her 14-year-old son Brian Jordon Jr. is a freshman at Marietta High School.
“As a parent, I am just elated about what the program has done for Brian,” Dean said.
Jordon’s sixth-grade teacher contacted Dean three years ago because she felt like Jordon had the potential to be a leader but was still trying to figure out how to do that.
Her son was matched with Marietta business management investor Jim Woods, and the pair has been almost inseparable ever since.
“Mr. Jim is awesome!” Dean said. “He loves Brian genuinely, and that is what I admire the most about him. They have that father-son, big brother type of relationship.”
She said the program has changed her son for the better, and people are always complimenting her on how “polite, gentle and sweet” Jordon is.
“Anyone who isn’t a mentor but has the capability, it can definitely bless them and bless that child,” she said. “You never know what a person can say or do that can spark a fire or excitement in a child. I would encourage anybody that could do it, to do so.”
Jordon echoed many of his mother’s thoughts, saying he was a little worried at first about being paired with a mentor, since he personally had a bad experience when attempting to join a different program. But he couldn’t be happier.
“It didn’t work out, and I was nervous about going into another and it having the same outcome, but it’s been great!” he said.
Jordon does have a relationship with his father, but he lives in Jacksonville, Fla., so they aren’t able to spend that much time together.
“Ever since I met Mr. Jim, he’s taken me in as another son and treats me like family,” Jordan said. “I basically call him my godfather, and with my dad living far away, he’s really like the only male influence I have around all the time.”
Jordan said Woods visits him weekly, attends his football games, helps him with schoolwork and takes him fishing.
“I know my dad can’t be here all the time, so I’m happy to have Mr. Jim come support me as often as possible,” he said.
The feelings are mutual.
“Brian has really almost become like another son to us,” Woods said. “I’ve gotten every bit as much out of this relationship, as I’ve given and for me, it’s really fun, it’s not a chore. We go fish. We go to the movies. I go watch him play football. He’s such a great kid!”
Woods was asked to serve on the program’s board and as a mentor by McAfee, and he, too, encourages anyone who can to step up and serve as a mentor.
“We’re trying to get out and speak to people,” he said. “We need mentors badly. We have more kids than we have mentors, and if we had more mentors, we’d be able to serve more kids.”
To learn more about the program or sign up to mentor, visit www.mariettamfl.com or contact Kellogg at 404-697-8682 or firstname.lastname@example.org.