402nd FA mentors children for PIE
Sgt. Marcie C. Wright,
402nd FA Public Affairs:
Members of the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade began their partners in education season with Dr. Sue Shook Elementary School Friday with a meet and greet with selected students.
The mentorship program, as it is called, began with the school three years ago when the school’s counselor reached out to Fort Bliss for mentors and the 402nd’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery responded to the charge. Since then, the school counselor has noticed a difference in participating children’s behavior, aptitude and attitude.
“We’ve noticed grades come up, attendance on Fridays has increased, [and] their motivation to come to school has increased – because of the mentors,” said Monica Dominguez, school counselor.
Dominguez has worked with Socorro Independent School District for 11 years, teaching first grade for seven years and counseling for four. She said these Soldiers have impacted the students at Dr. Sue Shook Elementary School in ways immeasurable by tools and instruments.
“They have somebody that they can look up to – a role model,” said the Texas School Counselor of the Year winner. “That’s why we’ve added more to the group, because we wanted to impact more students.”
The number of student participants in the mentorship program almost doubled this year compared to last year. The meet and greet hosted 23 children with mention of additional students being referred in. Student selection for the mentorship program is based on criteria that would otherwise categorize them as a “troubled youth.” The back stories of some of these children are ones commonly associated with behavioral and motivation issues. Referrals are based on a child’s less than desirable academic, behavioral and attendance record, as well as personal situations pertaining to home life.
Dominguez said last year she noticed a change in students’ motivation to come to school, at least on Fridays when the mentors were coming. Grades increased due to mentor tutoring, tips and encouragement. Some of this year’s student participants remained from last year, but many have moved on to middle school or have excelled their way out of the program.
During an icebreaker event, Soldiers and children circled around a carpet and passed a football. Whatever number the catcher’s thumb landed on pertained to a certain question they had to answer – a way of getting to know the participants better.
“I like how excited the kids got to see us,” said Sgt. 1st Class Evelyn Veal, the brigade’s S-2 noncommissioned officer in charge. “It was funny, when we were standing on the carpet, it was ‘I want to stand next to the Soldier’ and, ‘give the ball to the Soldier.’ It was cute.”
After which, the group broke into smaller sections to build towers out of pipe cleaners, a team building event.
“The tower was awesome, the kids had a lot of great ideas,” said Veal. “They wanted to make sure they put a watch tower on our actual tower … One of the kids made like three cannons. One of the little boys, Lucas, rolled up the pipe cleaner into the number 8 and he was like, ‘hey put this on the tower,’ I just said ‘okay.’”
Veal said one student told her that she felt bad for her friend for not being selected for the program because she enjoys it so much. This being her first time participating in the HHB’s partner in education program, Veal said she intends to volunteer at the school often.
“I thought this was awesome, a very rewarding experience.”
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