A new nonprofit organization hopes to make a difference in the lives of Newton County students when Newton Mentoring Inc. makes its way into the schools this fall.
Margaret Washington, program director for the newly formed mentoring program, is working feverishly to have the program ready for students when they return from summer.
The program targets all levels of students and will be implemented throughout all the county's schools.
Washington is looking for committed volunteers to donate one hour of their time each week.
The adult mentor would be paired with a student from one of the schools and spend an hour each week at the student's school.
Initially, mentors will spend time with their student at the school. But Washington said once the parents and children get to know and trust the mentor, they have the option to spend time outside of the school setting.
The program only promotes visits at the schools.
Modeled after the Clarke County Mentor Program, Newton Mentoring hopes to target at-risk students. But Washington said the program goes beyond just the children who may be susceptible to high stress situations.
"The program is designed to help all students regardless of age or race," she said. "We want everyone to be able to partake regardless of if they're at-risk. Many students may have both parents who work late hours and mentors are great to fill that time when parents are busy."
Washington said each mentor is put through an extensive background check before they are admitted to the program.
The background investigation is essential to insuring students get the best experience for the time they are with their mentors.
"We really want to make sure we get quality volunteers," Washington said. "The last thing we want is to have a pedophile become a mentor. We don't want anyone who has committed crimes to be around the children."
Once the program selects viable candidates, each mentor will go through a training class that will familiarize them with school procedures and what to expect with students. And while the program asks mentors to donate a minimum of one hour, Washington said mentors can donate more time if they want to.
"It's really up to the individual mentor," she said. "We ask they give us an hour but we certainly would like to have as much time as possible."
Washington plans to work with the schools' counselors to determine who needs a mentor. Her goal over the summer is to line up mentors.
She will attend a principals' meeting at the county education office in order to meet the schools' leaders to move ahead with plans.
"We hope to assign the first mentors about a month after the school year starts," Washington said. "I think that should give counselors enough time to assess who needs mentors."
Washington said the mentoring process can go either way in that students can be assigned or mentors can have a say in what age child they'd like to work with.
Newton Mentoring Inc. is a nonprofit organization that depends on local support. Newton County Chamber of Commerce President John Boothby will serve of the board for the program and Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson has been instrumental in formulating the program to this point.
However, the program will need funds to survive and Washington is hoping for financial contributions from anyone who can help.
"We are in the midst of setting up a new Web site and anyone who can make a donation can do so," Washington said.
If you would like to become a mentor or make a donation, please contact Washington at (678) 381-7948 or e-mail her at email@example.com.