Wanted: A few good mentors | News, Sports, Work

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Mentor Anne McBride smiles after spending time with middle school student Ashley Behrens. McBride mentored Behrens at Cooper Elementary School and then followed her to Fort Dodge Middle School.

Cory Moody is looking for some good men. And, of course, a few good women too.

Moody, mentoring coordinator for the Fort Dodge Community School District, is looking to hire new mentors for the program, which began in 1994.

As with many things, COVID has affected the number of mentors within the program. Moody said the program lost many older mentors during the pandemic, and he is struggling to bring people back into the program, which has been on hiatus for several years.

“We do well in high school and middle school,” he said. “These people started with students when they were younger and they stick with them. We have a lot of students who need to be matched with a mentor in elementary schools.”

Students are referred to Moody by their teachers, school counselors, principals and parents. Students range from elementary school to high school. There’s never a shortage of students in need of a mentor, Moody said.

Each mentor is connected to a student and spends time with them each week. The goal, Moody said, is for students to have a positive, healthy, one-on-one relationship with an adult role model.

“They can do different things,” Moody said. “They might eat lunch together or help with schoolwork or just talk.” We try to make sure they fit well.”

The mentoring program is part of the school district’s BRIDGES student services program. The BRIDGES program provides a wide range of support services for students who may need it.

New mentors are usually assigned to a student from elementary school, and then the pair stays together as the students progress through the grade levels.

Moody said most of the high school and middle school mentors have returned with students they first met in elementary school.

He said his biggest need is mentors to start the program with current elementary school students.

“My list there just went down,” he said.

Moody said he has had some current high school students approach him about mentoring elementary-aged students. He said he plans to pair them with students from Cooper Elementary School since the two buildings are so close together.

Moody said that in the past, when he needed help with mentors, the community answered the call. He said he hopes that will be the case this year.

“One year I said I needed 25 mentors, and the next week all 25 spots were filled. The Fort Dodge community has been fantastic,” he said.

Anyone is welcome to become a mentor. Moody said he has had Iowa Central College students, retired community members and even members of law enforcement serve as mentors.

To volunteer as a mentor, those interested need only fill out a mentoring application and go through a simple background check. Once approved, Moody will work with them to find a good student partner and do a brief training session with the mentor before they enter the school.

The time commitment is only 45 minutes to one hour per week. Most tutors simply visit their students at school during the school day, sometimes even during the lunch break. They will chat, help them with homework, play games, read to them – whatever works best for the couples.

“It’s not so important what you do,” Moody said. “It takes so long to do it.”

In BRIDGES’ 28 years, the program’s impact is quite clear, according to Moody.

“I’ve had several former students who had a mentor when they were young and now become a mentor,” he said.

Anyone interested in becoming a mentor can contact Moody at the high school. His number is 515-574-5469 or email him at [email protected]

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