COVINGTON, Ga. - After eight years of mentoring, Alisha Wise calls her mentor Carol Falconer “another grandmother.”
“She treated me like I was her own grandchild or daughter,” Wise said. “She helped me through so much in the eight years.”
Falconer said she has three sons and all grandsons, so she never had the experience of having a daughter.
“She taught me a lot,” she said. “Of course, the cell phone was new to me so she taught me how to text. So, you know, we were helping each other.”
The Newton Mentoring Program connected the two when Wise was in the fourth grade. Falconer had just retired from the Department of Health in New York when Margaret Washington approached her with the opportunity of becoming a mentor.
“I didn’t really know if I would be interested,” she said. “But when I started looking at the program, I became interested and, to me, this was one of the ways to give back.”
Wise and Falconer met once a week at a set time at Wise’s school.
“She usually helped me with my school work and studies because at the time I was slacking in my studies and the mentor program saw this and they decided we might as well try to help her a bit,” Wise said.
Falconer described the mentoring program as a “rewarding” experience.
“To see a young woman develop and then get confidence in herself, that was very good for me,” she said. “And not only that, it fostered the relationship because I was not her mom. I was not her grandmother. Whatever she tells me stays with me so she doesn’t have to worry about it coming back to haunt her.”
Wise said the mentoring program is perfect for people who both want help and those who want to help others.
“For me, it established a way for me to not only have help in school, but with life in general,” she said. “She taught me things that I didn’t even realize I would go through and it helped me establish who I am today.”
January is National Mentoring Month and together Wise and Falconer encourage the public to get involved.
“There are a lot of young people out there that need that support,” Falconer said. “I was a mom once working with kids and sometimes you don’t see things you’re supposed to see. This individual gives a chance to really see some the challenges that our young people are going through and to help to direct them or refocus them on what’s important.
“There’s so much out there to distract them. Being a young person now is very challenging. It’s very hard to keep focused because of all of the distractions, so that mentor is a reality check.”
Wise said National Mentoring Month provides an opportunity to bring awareness to mentors.
“It’s a chance to step out and help not only for the youth, but the elderly as well,” she said. “It’s a chance to see and help different perspectives of life.”
The Newton Mentoring Program was developed in 2008 to provide individual support for at risk children in the Newton County School System. The mentors are volunteers, non-paid adults, caring, advocating, listening and sometimes tutoring students who are referred to the program. Prior to being assigned to a student, the mentor attends a two hour orientation class and a national background check is required.
For more information about the Newton Mentoring Program, visit www.newtonmentoring.org.