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Posted: January 10, 2009 6:41 p.m.

Mentoring makes a difference

Newton Mentoring program matches adults, students for one-on-one guidance

Photo by Mandi Singer/

Although Newton County resident Carol Falconer and her husband Clarence are retired, they spend every Wednesday at Palmer-Stone Elementary School. The couple volunteer one hour a week mentoring two students at the school through Newton Mentoring, a non-profit grass roots organization.


"We felt we needed to give back," said Falconer. "One of the most important things in life is education, and we wanted to do our part to ensure our children have a great future."

The Falconers are two of 50 mentors who volunteer with the organization, which works to recruit responsible adults and match them with a child in the Newton County School system. Housed in the Newton County Chamber of Commerce office, Newton Mentoring currently serves about 65 students in 11 Newton County schools. But there are 15-20 children who are still waiting to be matched.

"I match students with an adult who has requested a specific type of student to work with or they have the life skills or job skills that can benefit that child," said Director Margaret Washington. "For example, someone who has experience in education, I'll match them with a student who is having trouble academically. I also try and match like to like and gender to gender."

Newton Mentoring grew out of discussions between Newton County Judge Horace Johnson and civil leaders in the community a little more than a year and half ago to develop a program that addressed the needs of youths in the county.

"Anyone who is the least bit concerned about this place we call home recognizes there is a great need for this program," said Johnson. "The focus is to develop and help nurture a relationship with kids and to share ideas about being a better person."

The program mirrors a 17-year-old Athens based collaboration between the chamber of commerce, the school system and the business community. The Athens program started with only 35 mentors and has since grown to more than 900 volunteers.

"The simplicity of the program makes it work and has given the longevity to the great program in Athens," said Johnson. "It's just about being there. One hour per week at the school. It's great because it's simple."

Washington said Newton Mentoring is looking to do the same by continually adding mentors to its role, especially men. Currently, a few of the male mentors have two mentees because there are not enough men on the books to provide the one-on-one guidance participants need.

"We hope that if people will hear more and more about the service, they would be willing to volunteer their time," said Washington.

Mentors are required to commit to one year of volunteering one hour of their time each week, and all mentoring is done at the school during regular hours.

"Once we have the application on file, we have a two-hour training and a criminal background check on all our mentors," said Washington.

The training is currently being offered once a month. The next training session is Tuesday, Jan. 13 at 6 p.m.

Falconers said she feels good about being able to make a difference in the lives of young people by volunteering through Newton Mentoring. She encourages other people to do the same because it only takes a little bit of time, but it makes such a difference to the students involved in the program.

"The important thing is that you have to be committed. You don't want to start and stop. The most important thing to that child is to know you're going to be a consistent person," Falconer said.

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