Saturday, May 10, 2014

Students Striving for Success Mentor Appreciation

Everything about El Reno’s new mentoring program, begun in fall 2013, has been organized, thoughtful, innovative, and exceedingly youth-friendly.

First Arrivals
Instead of a banquet or luncheon, therefore, Students Striving for Success Mentoring Program’s choosing a spirited, laughter-filled, and casual mentor-mentee bonding celebration to close its first year is not surprising.


11:15-12:15 for lunch and fun (excluding prep and clean-up)

The queue

At the Jenks Simmons Annex, or fieldhouse, older mentees arrive first by school bus and begin eating and chatting with their mentors in the brightly sunlit foyer.  Chester the Clown works this crowd first. Younger students arrive a little later and go directly to the gymnasium for a surprise and activities. Later they swap places and activities. After eating, everyone is in the gym playing.


On the west, the western half of the gym floor covered with tarpaulins features two giant inflatables. On the center of the gym floor is Chester the Clown, making balloon figures, telling jokes, and charming everyone. On the northeast side is a group of mentors and mentees shooting hoops. To the south side is a long row of tables with a bunch of white stuff.

Chester the Clown


End-of- Year Gifts/Mementos

Theleda Fuller, Patricia Coleman, Dana Gibson

'No plaques for these mentors! The tables have hundreds of sacks organized for mentees by name and school and for mentors by name. Inside each mentor’s sack is a plastic-framed photo of the mentor and the mentee with the school year. Each mentee receives a duplicate framed photo and passes for swimming and the movies.

Contents of mentee bag

Michelle Robyler Ahern, 
Alisha Kirkland


Elliott Roberston grilled hotdogs, which the mentoring board and volunteers wrapped and sacked. McDonald's furnished apple slices and paper bags. InterBank, BancFirst of El Reno, and Bank of Commerce furnished bottled water. We heard that next year dessert and chips will be added.

Curtis Blanc, Alisha Kirkland, Toni 
Grantham, Chris Lambakis


Di Anna Taylor, a Mercy home health nurse, reads with her mentee and then does a related activity each week. After reading Curious George Flies a Kite, for example, they flew a kite.

Maddie, her six-year-old mentee, mentioned some of the many crafts they have made together. The pair created coloring books for Maddie's class Easter party, colored pumpkins at Halloween, glued jewels on two flower pots, and produced a shadow box for Maddie's mother. When asked what was the best part of having a mentor, Maddie said
She does nice things for me.
Inspired by another mentee, off the two went for Chester make a balloon hat for Maddie.

Mentors and Mentees

Chris Lambakis
Di Anna had shared that a fellow mentor had two mentees, but the prize for the most this year went to Chris Lambakis, who had his three confident, cheery, active but well-behaved young men sitting across the table from him. When asked how this works, Chris said he takes all three each mentoring session and varies the activities. The diverse trio appeared comfortable with and close to each other.

Mike Bigwood, Linda Smith
Another couple, who met at the University of Oklahoma chemical engineering graduate school, Mike Bigwood, Ph.D., chemical engineering, and his wife, Linda Smith, the technical (chemical) director at Gemini Coatings, coincidentally mentor an eight-year-old boy and girl at the same time. One benefit is that the four play math games and do activities together. The partnership of Bigwood and Smith is reflected in the relationship of their mentees, i.e., the children help each other. Smith said

The best parts of mentoring are watching the kids develop and thinking of ways to help them grow.

Businesses Supporting Students Striving for Success

Although we are not listing all of the El Reno businesses that allow employees to mentor on the clock, we learned about a few. Gemini Coatings supports the mentoring program. Pictured below, Billy Guinn, the general manager of Armstrong Tool, himself a mentor, allows employees to participate. Mercy Hospital, BancFirst of El Reno (formerly Bank of Union), and others realize the impact of their employees' time.

Cindy Guinn, Billy Guinn, Curtis Blanc

Ashbrook Foundation

Virginia Douglas, an original foundation board member, and Gayle Meinberg, a board member, represented the Mary K. Ashbrook Foundation For El Reno OK.

As Dana Gibson, Students Striving for Success chair, mentioned in her May 6th Facebook post for the community

You all are perfect examples of ‘it takes a village to raise a child.'

Also from Gibson's Facebook post but omitting those identified in the photos here
Special thanks to Brooke Rickner Robertson, Rana Porter-Seymour, Craig McVay, Rodger Roblyer, Karen Reed, Ronnie Fields, Charlie Blount, Linda Hulbutta...Richard Steanson...Lillian Ray, Jenny Gibson Woodson, Jennifer James, Gerardo Troncosco...Shana Fields, Karen Olive, Linda Kennedy...Roylyn Porter, Marge Feddersen, Pam Broyles...Andrea Strong [and others who led and served].
El Reno’s community has hit a grand slam. Imagine recruiting 150 mentors by February 24, 2014!

'Thunderous applause for the community of El Reno--school system, businesses, citizens, and public schools foundation!

Previous posts above El Reno’s Students Striving for Success Mentoring Program
8-26-13 and 11-12-13

Event, May 6, 2014

1 comment:

  1. Your continued support has proven to be invaluable to the success of this program.........Dana Gibson SSS chairman