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Hand in Hand Mentoring Together

Program stands at 64 volunteers and counting

Posted: August 30, 2011 5:01 p.m.
Updated: August 31, 2011 5:00 a.m.
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Hand in Hand Together Mentoring Program Liaison Harvin Council goes bowling with his mentee, Nicholas. The Safe Schools/Healthy Students mentoring program, administered by the United Way of Kershaw County, is currently recruiting additional mentors to serve fifth through eighth grade Kershaw County School District students.

Last year, the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) received a $300,000 mentoring grant, specifically targeted for students in fifth through eighth grades.

Since then, 64 mentors have been approved and trained to serve students in all of school district’s elementary and middle schools. But if program director Margaret Lawhorn has anything to do with it, another 36 mentors will be added to the list before the end of the school year.

“Do I think we’re going to get it? Sure. There’s no doubt in my mind,” she said, adding that her goal is to have 100 mentors serve KCSD students during the current school year. “Because I know all the citizens and residents in Kershaw County care about our children.”

Administered through the United Way of Kershaw County, Lawhorn said the Hand in Hand Mentoring Together Program targets “students who would benefit from the presence of a caring adult.”

 “We’re a little bit more extensive than a lunch buddy program -- we want to help assist with increasing the graduation rate. If we can get them at that middle age of uncertainty, then that can make a large difference,” she said. “And it’s not necessarily about academics. We want mentors who have a giving heart, a caring and sharing spirit. You have so many children who come from broken homes. Sometimes children need that adult in their life who can make a tremendous difference and give them a focus to know that someone else cares about them.”

One of the great things about the program, Lawhorn said, is that mentors aren’t limited to working with the students only during school hours.

Most recently, a bowling party for mentors and their mentees was held in June. In the future, Lawhorn said, the program will host a mentor/mentee cookout, skating party, movie and popcorn evening and Christmas holiday dinner.

And with the help of her “outstanding” liaisons Maria Spring, Rengy Marshall, Hayward Myers and Harvin Council, Lawhorn hopes to recruit enough mentors to serve more than 300 students in the fifth through the eighth grades by the end of the three-year grant.

“We’re not asking for our mentors to be parents. We’re asking them to be friends, but not buddies,” she said. “When you become buddies with the mentee, then you are losing the ground and footing that we really want you to have to be that role model for them -- to give them the direction in which they need to follow.”

There’s no requirement to be a mentor, Lawhorn said, as a wide range of mentors as young as 19 years old to those who have retired have already signed up for the program.

Provided that an applicant passes a mandatory S.C. Law Enforcement Division background check, the only thing Lawhorn looks for in a potential mentor is “a caring heart.”

“I think this is a great grant that has been given to Kershaw County. I think that we all can benefit, but it will take all of us to reach our children,” she said. “We only ask for a minimum of four hours a month to make a difference in the life of a child.”

For more information about the Hand to Hand Together Mentoring Program, call 432-0951.

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