Phillips Middle School students were partnered with mentors from Iowa Central Community College Wednesday. The pairs got to know each other better over pizza in the middle school auditorium, forging new relationships.
Corey Moody, Fort Dodge Community School District mentoring coordinator, said it was a great partnership between the two institutions.
"Basically, what we're looking at is adding a positive person to a young person's life," Moody said. "We're bringing Iowa Central students in to help students here at Phillips, and give them some fun activities and also a positive thing for them."
The young students benefit from having an older mentor in their lives, Moody said.
"They have another positive person, but also somebody they can count on each week to come in and visit with, talk to about what's going on in their life, kind of help them out," he said. "It's kind of a special friend, a special connection in the community."
Moody also oversees the district's BRIDGES program, and has seen the tangible results of such mentorships.
"We track attendance and we track tardies and grades, and it is making a difference," he said. "Building that partnership and also that relationship is a great thing. It's a partnership that hopefully is going to continue to grow."
Students and their mentors will meet regularly to talk and/or engage in various activities, Moody said.
"The needs of the students are so different," he said. "They will basically spend time getting to know each other, building that rapport, that relationship."
Cameron Nelson, an Iowa Central student, is taking time from his studies to mentor Phillips student Michael Hanse another year.
"I was a student ambassador last year when I started," Nelson said. "I did this and got to know Mike, and he's really cool. So I kept doing it. I wanted to help out."
Nelson said he most enjoys just hanging out with his young mentee, their friendship a mutual one.
"Even if I'm having a rough day or something I can come here and he helps me out, too," he said. "We'll shoot hoops, toss around a football or just walk around the school and talk. It gives me someone to hang out with and talk to too."
Sara Condon, Iowa Central director of enrollment management, said the mentors are hand-selected.
"They're athletes, student ambassadors," she said. "We ask for students who are reliable and we choose them, talk to them about the mentoring program, make sure they can commit a hundred percent to it. Then we let Corey know and he lines them up with a Phillips student."
As a reward, participating mentors receive scholarship funds after they complete the semester, Condon said.
According to Condon, the program is succeeding.
"We started last year with 10 mentors and now we're up to 16," she said. "Last year, the Iowa Central students did exceptionally well. We wanted to do kind of a trial run with it, make sure they came in one hour a week, were a positive influence on the student, and we were very impressed. We're looking forward to growing the program."
Moody said the mentorship itself is a great opportunity for all.
"Any time you can help a student out and put a smile on a kid's face, that's a good day," he said.