This is a transcript of Christine Sorrels’ presentation at Fairview's Mission Mentors Appreciation Banquet. A Yukon Public Schools mentor and mentoring director, Christine’s story encompasses the beginning of Yukon’s mentoring program, mentors’ making an impact, mentoring Jeremy, and encouraging other mentors and potential mentors. More information about Christine and Yukon follow.
Salute to Mission Mentors
As I was looking at your Mission Mentors website, http://www.missionmentors.com/,
I was very impressed with the success you have had with mentors and mentee since your beginning in 2010. That first year you had 50 matches. This year 70 or more! That is remarkable! Congratulations to John Medley, your Mentor of the Year, honored at the State Capitol in January. Also, the Mission Mentors YouTube video, https://youtu.be/he3dZpd6JoI, is very cool! We may have to borrow your format.
Yukon Public School's Miller Mentors
In 1998, I attended a Youth Friends Mentoring conference in Kansas City, Missouri. It was the only formal mentoring program around that had training on how to begin a mentoring program. I felt our Yukon Public Schools Helping Hand Volunteer Program would be a great fit for school-based mentoring, which was really needed in our community. For example, in 1998 the United States rated at 34 per cent the highest number of single-parent families among developed countries. Oklahoma has consistently been in the top ten states with the highest divorce rate, in fact, number one in the USA in 2011.
Funding & Planning
I applied and received a Learn & Serve grant to start our program. Not a lot of folks had heard about mentoring then. Counselors understood the need for and wanted mentors. Understandably, teachers, on the other hand, were not too thrilled to have students pulled from their instructional time throughout the day.
So we compromised that first year by mentoring from 2:45 to 3:25 p.m. at the end of the school day. Many of the students who were referred were already being pulled out of their classrooms for math or reading labs or other specials in their Individual Education Plan (IEP). Teachers wanted the time with these students to give them as much instruction in their classrooms as possible. As a former second grade teacher, I understood their concerns.
The Pilot and Results
In January 1999, we kicked off the program with nine mentors at Skyview Elementary School. At the end of that school year, teachers that had students with a mentor were sold! Mentors had made a positive change in their mentees’ behavior, school attendance, and grades. The teachers said, ‘Tell the mentors to come any time of day, whenever it’s convenient for them! And get more…because we have many more students who need a mentor!’
The next year we had 41 matches at four school sites. By the third year, we were in five of Yukon’s seven elementary schools with 96 matches.
Mentors’ Making an Impact
Many times, especially at the beginning of a new mentoring relationship, mentors may not feel as if they are making an impact on a child’s life. I know because I mentored a second-grade girl who was struggling with many issues. Kammie, my mentee, was unable to pass second grade, although I had mentored her for half a year. Disappointed in myself, I felt as if I had failed her.
But for the past 16 years since we began our program, I can tell you more often than not mentoring does make a huge impact in a child’s life even if the child does not know how to express that back to the mentor.
As you know many of the students we mentor have never been taught appreciation. They have only been taught rejection, sadness, and a lack of self-worth whether it is because of academic struggles, a lack of caring and nurturing at home, or a combination of both.
As it turned out, failing was a good move for my little mentee. Her not being able to pass the second grade actually helped her mature and develop better skills and coping with school.
She just graduated from Yukon High school a couple of weeks ago and began taking summer college classes this week! Yes, I continued to mentor her. I didn’t give up.
Our program’s mission statement is "Mentors will serve as role models and tutors providing academic and social support to empower and motivate students to succeed." It may take more than one semester or even one school year to feel you are having success with a child you are mentoring…but don’t give up!
At orientations, I always tell our mentors that most of us have had at least one person in our lives that made a difference. Even as a young adult or in your work, someone may have taken a special interest in you with a constructive positive attitude that influenced your outcome. I tell them, "You might not have called them a mentor back then. Can you, however, recall how that person made a difference in your life? ‘How he or she made you feel or how you could see things in a different perspective for your life?"
|Jeremy Bennett & Christine Sorrels|
Bonding through Adversity
Jeremy is another of our program’s success stories. In 1999, several teachers and I were asked to help with remediation tutoring and mentoring after school for a group of students. I was matched with a young man named Jeremy Bennett. It was a tough time for Jeremy Bennett as his mother was going through some very difficult health issues. At that time I was dealing with the impending death of my sister, who had a 13-year-old daughter whom I loved and finished rearing. Both women, Jeremy’s mom and my sister, passed within weeks of each other from the same disease. Needless to say, Jeremy and I created a strong bond.
Sealing the Bond
Later Jeremy and I reconnected again at the local cancer charity, the Relay For Life. Because so many folks that year were in the stadium and so many luminaries on the football field, an announcement was made that no children would be allowed on the field. Jeremy was devastated. He sought me out in the crowd, and he told me that he would not be allowed to light his mother’s memorial luminary. He asked me if I would do it for him. Fiercely determined, I grabbed his hand, and together we walked onto the stadium floor. Not turned away, we lit both of their luminaries together. That lighting ceremony was an unforgettable emotional moment in my life.
Jeremy's Growing Older
As Jeremy went through high school, we didn’t have formal mentoring meetings, but I always kept up with him. Always happy to see each other, we would pass in the hallways at school, stop, and spend a few minutes catching up. I witnessed his leadership skills grow stronger and stronger. He was an officer in Yukon’s agriculture classes. I heard an outstanding speech he gave to middle school students about skills and responsibilities of being an officer in the agriculture program. Jeremy went on to compete nationally in FFA. Jeremy, a graduate of Oklahoma State University, currently is the field representative for Congressmen Frank D. Lucas. Reading in our local newspaper about Jeremy’s accomplishments throughout his high school and college life pleased me.
Last school year, I had one of the biggest thrills of my life when Jeremy walked into my office at the school’s administration building. The first thing he said was, "Mrs. Sorrels, do you remember me?" As my eyes filled with tears of happiness from seeing him, he said, "I’m here because I’m in a position now where I just want to give back."
Jeremy began mentoring a third-grade boy last year. This year while mentoring two third-grade boys, Jeremy has already made quite an impact in their lives as well as upon the faculty and staff of Myers Elementary and Yukon Schools.
Encouragement to Live and Mentor Passionately
I would like to close with these words from the Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard, as a reminder to each of us, including myself, to think about what you choose to do each day and for next school year as you re-up to mentor again.
Most people are reactive vs proactive. We allow other people and their needs to dictate our days…Setting goals for each day, being intentional about living now! That is where true joy and happiness come from. LIVE NOW! How often do you live your life telling yourself, I have a little more busywork THEN I can relax; THEN I can enjoy my children; THEN I can pursue my life's work; THEN I can be happy? Don't do the minimum each day, choking through life waiting for happiness to knock on your door. Be intentional with your life, you have the choice to create happiness!
Burchard’s ideas are nothing new, but many of us must motivate ourselves to be intentional and make critical choices. We don’t have a second chance, folks…as you have heard before, this isn’t a dress rehearsal… this is your life; therefore,
1) Choose to elevate OTHERS!
2) Commitment to be consistent and dependable – to maintain a steady presence in the life of the youth you have mentored or will be mentoring next year.
3) Spread the word… you are the greatest recruitment tool for Oklahoma’s children.
Introduction of Jeremy
I’m so proud of the work and dedication my ‘mentee turned mentor’ is doing with his students. Everyone needs a ‘Jeremy’ in his or her life. It is my honor to introduce Yukon’s 2014-2015 Mentor of the Year, Jeremy Bennett.
See the next post for Jeremy’s sharing his mentoring experience.
Christine Sorrels, a mentor since 1998, is the director of Yukon Public Schools Helping Hand Volunteer Program, 45 years old, and Miller Mentors. Yukon, once a closely-knit rural area near Oklahoma City, is a rapidly growing suburban community of about 25,000 people. In addition to several other school programs, Christine and her staff/sidekicks, Christal Whitmire and Donna Klukas, encourage and supervise over 750 volunteers, mentors, and academic tutors within nine elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and one alternative school. ‘A masterful achievement! Yukon’s goal with so many structured contact mechanisms between students and community members is to preserve the small town atmosphere in burgeoning suburbia. Perhaps more importantly than all of her accomplishments and well-executed responsibilities, Christine is the mentor of the mentee turned mentor.
For more information about Yukon Public Schools Helping Hand Volunteers and Miller Mentoring Program, http://www.yukonps.com/OurStudents/HelpingHandsProgram/tabid/436/Default.asp
Yukon, located along historic Route 66, has long been known for its grain milling industries, hence the apropos name of the program, Miller Mentors.
We are so proud of the leadership of western Oklahoma towns such as Fairview and Yukon to begin and sustain effective mentoring programs.