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County receives $300,000 mentoring grant

Volunteers needed to work with local youth

Posted: February 4, 2011 4:16 p.m.
Updated: February 7, 2011 5:00 a.m.
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Mentoring Program Coordinator Margaret Lawhorn (second from left) shares her love of children with students at Jackson School. Lawhorn is recruiting adults who are interested in mentoring local sutdents in grades 5-8. Call 432-0951 for more information.

Ask anyone who works with children what the greatest factor is for success in a young person’s life, and you will hear the same answer over and over -- the presence and involvement of a caring adult. 

“Having a positive adult role model in your life provides a stable guiding force,” said Kershaw County School District Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) Project Director Kevin Rhodes. “We’ve seen this be the common factor regardless of social, economic or educational background -- young persons who have more positive adults in their lives have better school attendance, higher grades and generally are more successful in life.” 

Rhodes said that 150 Kershaw County youth will now be able to experience this type of interaction through a new $300,000 three-year mentoring grant that the school district has received. 

“First and second year SS/HS recipients were eligible to apply for these mentoring funds, and only 10 in the country received them, so this is an extended benefit of our original federal grant,” said Rhodes.  “This fits in nicely with the other components of our project.”

The local mentoring program will be administered by the United Way of Kershaw County (UWKC). 
 “At a communitywide planning process a few years ago, we set a goal to increase the area’s graduation rate, and this mentoring program will be a key factor in making that happen,” said UWKC President Donny Supplee. “This funding allows us to provide a more intensive focus on our current efforts.”

Veteran educator Margaret Lawhorn has been hired as the grant’s coordinator. A former elementary school administrator and early childhood teacher, she will be working with four part-time program liaisons to oversee the pairing of adult mentors with 150 students in grades 5-8. 

Lawhorn said she will spend a great deal of time in the next few months recruiting and training volunteers to serve as mentors. She said there is no required educational experience for mentors but they must be willing to give of their time on a regular basis. 

“They need to have a love for children and a true commitment,” Lawhorn said.

Training will be provided to help mentors know what to expect and how they can help make students successful.   

Lawhorn draws on her own personal experience as a mentor in a child’s life. 

 “I saw a child in one of my classes who could benefit from a little extra of my time and involvement in her life.  I still get calls from her today.  It has been a great experience,” she said.

Those interested in mentoring should contact Lawhorn at 432-0951 for more information. 

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