Mississippi Association of Partners in Education #PartnershipPower
2014 Partnership Excellence Award Lockard Elementary School, Indianola School District - CARES Mentoring Program. Partners: Delta Health Alliance/Indianola Promise Community, Sunflower County Retired Teachers Association, Southern Echo, Sunflower County Ministerial Alliance, Double Quik, Super Value, Planters Bank, Rasberry Men’s Club, National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, and Queen City Furniture
Duration of partnership: 1 year 100 Volunteers 100 students impacted
CARES stands for Children Are Reaching Excellence with Support. Research has shown that mentoring a child at least an hour a week makes a positive impact on academic success. That is the goal of the CARES Mentoring Program at Lockard Elementary. The CARES Program is a framework for adults in the community to provide academic, social, and emotional support to meet children’s needs. It is designed to enhance student self-esteem, to improve attendance and academics, and to provide intervention at an early age. Mentors are from faith-based groups, local businesses, and social and civic organizations.
In the CARES program, the mentor is a friend, confidant, and positive role model. Mentors are assigned to students based on student needs, mentor availability, and their shared interests. For example, a child who has a strong interest in computers may be paired with a mentor whose profession is in the IT field. The mentor and child meet once a week at the school for a minimum of an hour during the school day. During their sessions, mentors and mentees talk, play games, take walks on the school grounds, and read. Occasionally, mentors help students with homework or other activities. In general, a mentor is viewed as an adult friend and not as a teacher and certainly not as a second parent. The program works because the mentor becomes another caring adult in a child's life who is there to provide support.
Currently CARES is a volunteer-led operation, with a program coordinator who oversees the daily engagement of mentors and mentees. There are five subcommittees that help administer the program — they oversee recruitment and selection, fundraising, professional development, parental engagement and policy development. Individuals from the community who are interested in becoming CARES mentors are initially interviewed by the program coordinator. Candidates must clear background and reference checks, and once they are approved to participate, they must complete a training session and an orientation session.
The program was first implemented in March 2013 with 22 mentors and mentees. Within a year, the school noticed improvements in absenteeism, behavior and course performance. From fall to winter, 83 percent of CARES mentees improved reading scores and 94 percent improved math scores. The CARES Mentoring Program has created new opportunities for community involvement and support at Lockard Elementary School, and the program has grown to include 100 mentors and mentees.