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Newton County’s mentoring program: helping students succeed
Kendyl Maddox (left) with her mentor Margaret Washington - photo by Jasmine Floyd

According to the Newton Mentoring Program’s website, “NMI’s mission is to build and strengthen the character and competence of children and youth, which will help build their leadership abilities, thus, their ability, to succeed during their school years and beyond.

 Mentor and former director Margaret Washington says the program was founded in 2008 by Judge Horace Johnson who wanted to provide support for children K-12 in the Newton County School System. She said that all schools in Newton County are involved with the program.

 Washington said students have to be enrolled in a Newton County school to participate. She said referrals for the program usually come from counselors, teachers, parents, DFACS and juvenile courts.

Washington mentors 15-year-old Kendyl Maddox, who she has known since third grade. 

“I’ve watched Kendyl blossom into a beautiful and bright young lady. I plan to stick with her through college and beyond,” she said.

Washington said she tries to encourage and assist Kendyl, as well as advocate for her. 

“To me, that is one of the beauties of being a mentor. Once the student becomes comfortable with you, they trust and began to talk to you in ways they may not be able to with their parents,” she said.

“I am whatever Kendyl may need.“

Mentors meet one day a week for an hour at school. Mentors are also allowed to meet their mentees outside of school if needed.

“Many mentors like myself meet outside of school. I try to stay in touch with Kendyl and dedicate as much time as I can”, Washington said.

Kendyl said her mentor has helped her through tough times and that she is very grateful to have Washington in her life.

“Ms. Washington is the greatest mentor of all time, “she said, “If I need help with my classes she’ll bring flashcards. If I have a problem she is right there to listen. Not only is she an amazing mentor, Ms. Washington is like family to me and she has had a huge impact on my life.“

Kendyl believes kids who aren’t aware of the program can gain a friend from the experience.

“Mentors become family once you let your guard down and open up, “she said, “It is very essential when growing up that we as students have someone that is willing to help no matter what. 

“Being able to take in knowledge and have guidance will allow kids to learn more. Having a role model once a week is good enough for me."

Washington said that though the program is thriving, funding is still an issue.

She also said there aren’t enough mentors to match with students.

“The program works hard to tend to each student and make sure they are getting the help they need.”

Washington said there is a waiting list of students who need a volunteer mentor. 

“This program is important for students to have an advocate, because it opens their minds to what the future may hold for them and also a chance to engage in different opportunities.

“Being able to understand our mentees and teach them is all we ever want to do.”