SALISBURY, MD--- In celebration of National Mentoring Month, Salisbury University highlights the efforts of faculty, staff, students and alumni involved with mentoring programs both on campus and in the community.
More than 40 of the Wicomico Mentoring Project’s mentors are affiliated with the University, said Henrietta Parker, program coordinator. “It’s one way the community can help children who are going to be staying in the area to become productive citizens,” she said. “When children have mentors, most improve grades, attendance and behavior.”
Dr. Stephen Gehnrich, of the Biology Department, has mentored a student in the program for nearly three years, taking him to athletic events and assisting with transitions from middle to high school. “My student doesn’t get a lot of encouragement at home so I try to show enthusiasm for learning; I push him to stay in school and do well by reading and studying,” he said. Gehnrich became a mentor after serving on a jury for a drug-related trial and wanting to divert other kids from that path. “I know there are a lot of kids who would like to have a mentor – it’s a fun and easy way to do some good,” he said.
Senior Berkley Kilgore is another veteran mentor. She spends time each week talking with an eighth grader about life experiences, usually related to the student’s family. “These kids have a lot of problems to handle and I hope to help,” she said. “I try to explain that these seemingly stressful things now won’t matter later in life and to just try and focus on school.” Rose Clay, education assistant at the Ward Museum, is a first-time mentor, who typically assists with math, but recently provided guidance on coping with a death in the family. “It helps me see things from a kid’s perspective again; I hope he will go on to college and remember that someone thought he was important,” she said.
When SU alumnus Rusty Brown (’03), a pharmaceutical sales representative, overheard an employee in a local medical office talking about wanting to help children, he suggested the Wicomico Mentoring Project. He had organized a soccer tournament to raise money for the program while a student at SU. With Brown’s encouragement, the employee, and about five co-workers, decided to volunteer.
Some SU Football players are also gearing up to mentor local elementary school students this spring. Last year, 30-40 players worked with students in seven Wicomico County schools once or twice a week, helping with homework, motivating attendance, initiating conversations about goals and encouraging fun through kickball and other games, said Beth Sheller, Parent Involvement Liaison for Wicomico’s Title I Schools.
“A lot of the students need positive male role models, like the players,” she said. “It’s great for our kids to see guys in college who play sports and are committed to being successful academically.” Positive effects of the mentor partnership included a drop in discipline referrals and improved cooperation with teachers and other students. “The kids really just like being around them,” Sheller said. “It’s critical for students who lack a role model at home or who need a little extra support to excel and be on a more positive path in life. Hearing it from a football player is good too because it’s cool.”
On campus, upperclassmen in Kappa Delta Pi international education honor society have established a mentoring program to assist first-year teaching education majors in the Education Department’s Living Learning residential community. They provide guidance on things like the PRAXIS assessment and offer a connection to all KDP activities. “The main thing we are trying to do is give them support while they are learning to be teachers,” said Teena R. Gorrow, English Department professor.
For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.