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A positive impact: Mentors help guide students at PPISD

Cole Warren said he had two mentors when he was a young man.

A college professor filled the role in one of those mentor slots, and the other mentor works in the Frisco ISD. He could go to them for wisdom about life or career concerns.

Warren, counselor at Pilot Pilot Intermediate School, and other educators have started a mentor program in which volunteers are sought to spend time with children at the school. “The point really is to get these kids somebody they can bounce things off,” he said. “It really doesn’t necessarily have to be a mom, dad, teacher or a principal.”

An indication of how much of an effect a mentor made for Warren: He ate lunch with his college professor once a week for two years.

Assistant Principal Margie Nisbett started the program and then handed the operation to Warren, who manages the mentors. “We’re just trying to get people from the community to come out and help some of our students and just basically be mentors to them,” Intermediate School Principal Dustin Toth said.

Volunteers visit at least 30 minutes every two weeks, Toth said. A background check is conducted. Todd Witte said he drops by every week to mentor a sixth-grader. “I enjoy being down here,” he said.

He reads, plays a board game or hangs out with a boy at the school.

At the school, Witte’s son, Nick, is in the sixth grade, and Witte’s wife, Amy, is an ESL teacher. “It’s just building a relationship with those kids,” Witte said. “Mine started with a relationship that was preexisting that developed at fifth grade camp last year.”

The time is scheduled around the mentors’ availability, Toth said. “We hang out, laugh, just being regular,” Witte said.

So far, six kids are being mentored. The program is open for adult male and female volunteers. In selecting those children who receive a mentor, Toth said the school examines those children who need a mentor for various reasons, based on their background. Parents must sign off on their children being in the program.

Toth hopes the program can build students’ social skills and sense of responsibility.

Warren said the program’s purpose centers on having the consistency of somebody outside the building coming in routinely and being an adult who cares. “And it’s not necessarily administrators, counselors and teachers; it’s somebody that’s in the community,” Warren said. “One of the goals we have is to have this ongoing. So it starts here, continues, goes to the middle school, goes to the high school with them. A lot of adults had mentors that we had growing up. I still talk to mine.”

Two other mentors are Karson Hall and Chris Todd, who, like Witte, are on staff at Midway Church.

“Because they have the teachers and principals – they lay down the law – we get the fun part, which is to be a friend and a good male presence and role model with them,” Hall said.

There’s no attempt to “fix” the students, Hall said. Rather, the intent revolves around having fun time with the students and eventually having meaningful conversations.

Todd said the program affords him an opportunity to show the children someone cares for them. “Obviously, their teachers love them and care for them, and their counselors do as well,” Todd said. “But it’s just I know growing up as a kid it was always nice to be able to get the outside investment of people. It was like, ‘These role models or these other fatherly figures that are here, they care about me, too,’ and hopefully that helps them succeed in a way that they never thought they would.”

Adults who mentor the students will not be perfect by any means, but will be someone who will be a friend and strong presence, Hall said. He appreciates the school being open to start the program and that he can use certain different methods to help his mentee.

“I think we as continue, as the word gets out, (the program) will turn into something that will be a positive impact,” Warren said.

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