ATHENS, GEORGIA. – Quienteze, a first grader at Barrow Elementary School, polished his manners and respect after a year of involvement in the Clarke County Mentor Program (CCMP).
Before Quienteze entered the program, he struggled with following directions according to Caryn Demarest, his physical education teacher. Greg Waddell, Quienteze’s mentor, said his mentee has really grown into a vibrant young boy. For the protection of the child, the program has chosen to omit the last name of Quienteze.
“I know that he looks forward to his mentor being there. We have a bond that’s developed. I wouldn’t say needs that or longs for that, but he expects me to be there on Fridays. I’m just as excited to be there as he is,” Waddell said.
Every semester, University of Georgia students along with other members of the community train to enter the program and partner with a mentee at a local elementary, middle, or high school. Mentees from 21 different Clarke County schools request their mentor to meet them for an hour a week to play games, talk, or be a source of support.
Since 1991, when the program was established, there have been over 500 mentor and mentee pairings according to program director, Colleen Pruitt. However, she acknowledged the challenges the program faces to diversify and recruit volunteers as they graduate each year. The program is currently made up of 80 percent female.
“CCMP is trying to attract more men in the program because there’s a great need especially of boys in middle and high school that would benefit from having a mentor,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt said the Athens mentor program has one mission: to make a difference in a child’s life. Each mentor has to complete an application, background check, and training session. Waddell said after he completed training and started meeting Quienteze, he started to see some positive changes in his behavior.
“He now says ‘yes sir, no sir’ so i think there has been a positive impact there. I plan on doing it as long as we are in Clarke-County in Athens. It’s something that I feel like if I didn’t show up it would just be a empty hole there so to speak,” Waddell said.
The next mentor training session is on Friday, Nov. 10 at 6 p.m at the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. Mentor and mentee meetings will conclude at the end of second semester.
Click below to listen to an audio story with Quienteze’s physical education teacher.
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Watch this video to see Quienteze and his physical education teacher at Barrow Elementary School: