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KCSD receives $300,000 grant to mentor students

Posted: September 27, 2010 9:09 a.m.
Updated: September 27, 2010 9:10 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District has received an additional $300,000 grant on top of the $5.7 million Safe Schools/Health Students (SS/HS) grant the county received a year ago to combat the influence of gangs.

The SS/HS grant has impacted local youth through summer programs at local churches and will help fund after-school programs, the addition of mental health counselors, digital school bus security cameras, intervention programs and anti-violence and anti-drug curriculums.

The additional $300,000 grant is specifically targeted for mentoring at-risk students in fifth through eighth grades.

“When we found out that we got it, we were really excited,” said SS/HS Project Director Kevin Rhodes, adding the grant will have an emphasis on providing mentors for fifth graders. “Our goal is to increase by 150 the number of at-risk students receiving one-on-one mentoring. The transition from fifth grade to sixth grade is really tough, and many times a mentor can help that transition go a little bit smoother.”

Rhodes said he hopes to assign mentors to 50 at-risk students each year, with a priority given to the fifth graders. As each year passes and the students matriculate, the mentors will continue to assist them through what Rhodes believes are a “critical transition phase” in their lives.

Additionally, mentors are also considered being added to the Department of Juvenile Justice’s JEEP and Bridge programs in an effort to further reduce recidivism and bolster relationships between employees and employers.

Administered through the United Way of Kershaw County, the funding will be used to recruit mentors, match mentors and students, and provide community outreach.

“I am very excited about this. We have a goal of raising the graduation rate over 10 years to 95 percent, and mentoring is one of the major ways that we can help kids succeed,” said United Way of Kershaw County (UWKC) President Donny Supplee.

Supplee said UWKC will hire a mentoring coordinator, who will coordinate mentoring activities and put mentors on task, as well as four community liaisons, who will be tasked with recruiting mentors. Two community liaisons will be from the Lugoff-Elgin area, one will be from Camden and the fourth liaison will be from the North Central area.

“They’ll be the ones who are responsible for making those connections between mentors and mentees,” Supplee said. “We’re really excited about this. I know there’s paperwork involved with starting this ... but whenever they tell us we can start, we’re going to start.”

Rhodes said the grant will not be directly tied to the current mentoring program the school district already has in place through the ALPHA Center. He said he hopes the new mentoring program will be more intensive.

“It’s a tall order to get 50 mentors to sign up, but the district can benefit from having students have someone to vent their frustrations to; a mentor can help a lot,” Rhodes said. “We’re looking for all types of mentors, of any type. None are more important than others. No matter who you are, we can find a way for you to help.”

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