Spokane Public Schools leaders are searching for community members to serve as strong mentors to students while at the same time thanking those already serving in the program.
The district is hosting the event to celebrate Black mentors while also recruiting new mentors at 5:30 pm Friday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, 500 S. Stone.
The mentors are part of the district’s in-house Encouraging Positive Intention Connections Mentoring program that the district’s Department of Family and Community Engagement launched last year. Friday’s gathering, held in recognition of National Mentoring Month and Black History Month, is being paid for by a grant from Mentor Washington.
Those who plan to attend the event are asked to RSVP at www.spokaneschools.org/epic.
The district also hopes to recruit new mentors at the event, said Chief Family and Community Engagement Officer Oscar Harris. There are no specific requirements other than passing a background check and completing some training, but mentors should be able to devote at least an hour a week to meet with their student.
“They’re just individuals who want to give back,” Harris said of the roughly 30 mentors currently signed up with the program.
The mentoring program is unique in that it is intended for students who might otherwise slip through the cracks. It’s designed for quiet students who don’t get into trouble but who need some additional support, Harris said. Those students can often be overlooked because there are no disciplinary or educational issues.
“What can happen in the school system, the student who displays challenges will get that support,” he said. “We wanted a program that would help all students.”
The program is available to students in all grades, although what mentoring will look like for each grade varies. In elementary school, mentors typically eat lunch with their student. As students get older, the focus will shift to social aspects and preparing for a future after high school.
Harris said that research has shown that bringing a positive adult such as a mentor into a child’s life that creates a consistent, long-term relationship has many benefits.
“The impact on later life outcomes can be tremendous,” he said. “Some of our students may not have positive role models.”
Harris said efforts are made to match students with mentors of similar racial and cultural background, particularly if the parents request it.
“There’s something to be said about having someone who they can relate to on a cultural level,” he said.
Parents interested in getting their child involved in the mentoring program can reach out to the counseling or administrative staff at their child’s school or reach out using the district’s Let’s Talk app, Harris said. Those interested in becoming mentors can fill out an application at www.spokaneschools.org/epic.