SHS Students Mentor Westside Students by Betsy Bailey
During the time I spent teaching in the classroom, I often reminded my high school students that they never knew who was watching them. I wanted them to be aware that younger students throughout the district looked up to them when they might not even know it.
A group of forty-five Searcy High School students are definitely aware of little eyes and ears that are watching closely and hanging onto their every word. Westside Elementary School and the Searcy High School Future Teachers of America (FTA) have partnered this year to implement a new mentoring program called the PAWS (Positive Action With Students) program. The second Wednesday of each month, FTA members and their sponsor Mrs. Calandra Cook travel to Westside to meet up with a group of selected students. Elementary students were assigned a high school mentor at the beginning of the program, and now each student has his/her own PAW pal. During their time together, the students talk about daily activities, likes/dislikes, and create a craft or work on an educational activity together. High school students are able to practice skills as future educators, and the Westside students have a trusted buddy they can depend on to visit them each month.
Westside Elementary School principal Marye Jane Brockinton says the program has been tremendously successful over the last couple of months. After conversations with her elementary-aged students, she realized that many of them did not have a true understanding about the importance of education and how they could become successful in the upcoming years. Mrs. Brockinton and Searcy High School principal Claude Smith teamed up with Mrs. Cook and Westside Elementary School counselor Lincoln Dias to make this program a reality. Brockinton remarks, “Our goal for this experience is to be something that enhances the lives of all our PAWS—Big PAWS experiencing giving back and reaching out to others, and Little PAWS knowing their future in school and in life has no boundaries.” Mrs. Brockinton also notices each meeting that students who rarely smile or have little to say during normal school days possess never-ending smiles, and experience laughter and lively conversation during the thirty-minute time period.
Westside Elementary School and Searcy High School are hoping to expand the program in the years to come. We at Searcy School District are thrilled that two of our campuses are working together to help students-younger and older- become successful!