EDITORIAL: Mentoring progress

By NEMS Daily Journal

The energy of a community shows itself in what it what it does for the common good.
Two complementary mentoring programs working with students at, about to enter, or who have dropped out of Tupelo High School show a passion for the long-term success of young people whose personal circumstances threaten to barricade the future.
The two organizations – Project T.E.A.M. and MAPS – both use mentors from the community.
Initial movement toward a mentoring program came from retired THS Principal Mac Curlee, who concluded a long public education career late in 2009.
MAPS – Mentors Advisory-teachers Parents and Students – started in 2009 working with students at the high school who needed help and encouragement beyond the regular school experience.
THS counselor Brandie Harris and Parents for Public Schools Parent Coach Sally Gray expanded the initiative this academic year, focusing on THS freshmen, then following those same students through high school. Todd Beadles and Orlando Pannell with the Community Development Foundation have also been instrumental in recruiting volunteers.
The program involves mentors who have had a background check, meeting regularly with the students on the high school campus in places like the commons or in the resource center. Each student also meets for 26 minutes every day with a participating teacher, who helps guide and focus the mentees. The mentors agree to meet at least twice monthly with mentees; having lunch at school is frequently the common ground. The program has grown from 23 students in the beginning to 50.
Project T.E.A.M. – tagging, educating, advising and mentoring – was started when Tupelo Public Schools Assistant Superintendents Fred Hill and George Noflin met with Pannell, director of development at CDF, over lunch. When told by Hill that 150 black males had dropped out of the class of 2010 the three immediately shared a sense of urgency.
Project T.E.A.M. grew out of that concern, and it has recruited 107 black men volunteers to work with black male students who need help finishing the required senior project, or help preparing themselves for required state subject tests. Some who have dropped out but are younger than 19 are encouraged to return to school or pursue a GED, or use home-schooling to graduate.
Both programs seek to grow and expand their service. Call Sally Gray at (662) 372-0371 for MAPS, or contact Hill at
fohill@tupeloschools.com or Noflin at gnnofin@tupeloschools.com for Project T.E.A.M.