With more than 218 individuals involved in mentoring pairs this year in Pratt and Skyline school systems, Youth Core Ministries director of mentoring Kelsie Nauman is seeing great benefits.
Every week student mentoring pairs in Pratt meet to play games, work on schoolwork and sometimes just talk. Each pair is made up of an elementary-aged student and a high school student. This mentoring program, begun in 2013 by Youth Core Ministries, has impacted the lives of hundreds of Pratt students.
This year, in Pratt, there are currently 109 pairs of mentors and mentees. Seventy-nine of them are Greenback Match pairs, 18 are Thunderbird Match pairs from Skyline, and nine are community mentoring pairs. The community mentoring pairs are between an adult and any Pratt student, aged K-12.
Pratt County Mentoring Director Kelsie Nauman said she has seen incredible results from the pairings. Every year, parent-teacher evaluations are conducted for the elementary kids being mentored.
“Those evaluations have shown that students who have a mentor are showing greater school attendance, better attitude about school, better grade or academic performance and better overall attitude,” Nauman said. “Parents have reported noticing that their kids are happier.”
Not only have the kids being mentored benefited from the program, but the high school students doing the mentoring have been impacted as well.
“The high school students have reported that having a mentee has helped them become more responsible and realize that their actions do affect other people,” Nauman said. “Many high school students report that having a mentee has inspired or encouraged them to be a better person and/or make better choices.”
Senior Vanessa Leckner has been mentoring the same girl since her freshman year, and has seen similar results Nauman has seen.
“When I first started seeing (my mentee), she was incredibly rowdy and always tried to cheat on stuff that we played,” Leckner said. “Now she's incredibly calm compared to how she was and now she loves to follow the rules.”
Leckner has learned very valuable lessons from being a mentor.
“It made me into a better person and shaped me to be the best role model,” Leckner said. “I have learned that it can be very testing of your patience but if you keep your patience the whole experience can be incredible.”
In 2017, Leckner was one of the first members of the Greenback Match Club; a way to get Pratt freshman to participate in mentoring. The freshmen met one day a week and the school provided transportation for them, since many could not yet drive legally. When at the elementary school, Southwest counselor Angie Forshee and Special Education teacher Kim Staats planned and led activities for the pairs.
“This is a great way to introduce younger mentors to the mentoring experience in a supervised and controlled setting so they can gain the confidence and skills to continue mentoring throughout high school,” said Nauman.
Since the pilot year in 2013, the program has increased in numbers from four to six students to currently 218 individuals involved.
“This program has far exceeded any and all of my expectations,” Nauman said.
Nauman’s said her goal, as the program continues, is to strengthen the current mentoring pairs. She wants to do everything she can to support each mentor.
“Mentoring, while such an amazing thing, can be challenging at times,” Nauman said. “One of my favorite things about my position is that I get to build relationships with the high school students and support them in, not only their role as a mentor, but life in general.”
Another of her goals is to continue recruiting more high schoolers and expand into Liberty Middle School.
Nauman also enjoys connecting to and building relationships with each school’s staff.
“The staff at PHS and Southwest really stand behind this mentoring program,” Nauman said. “I love what I do and who I get to work alongside with.”
David Swank, Forshee, and Staats help Nauman coordinate the program, and PHS secretary Valle Swafford has helped her coordinate with the high school students.
“I simply could not do this without them and they are incredible people work to work with,” Nauman said. “We have a lot of fun working this program together.”