How to become a mentor
For more information on the Center Point mentorship program, go to centerpointgainesville.com or call 770-535-1050. Mentorship training sessions are offered throughout the school year.
There’s a need in the community, and it’s one that only those in Hall County can fill.
Center Point, a Gainesville-based nonprofit that offers programs in religious education and substance abuse prevention, professional counseling and student mentoring, is running particularly low on volunteer mentors for the 2012-2013 school year.
The program trained 280 new volunteers last year. So far this year, they've trained 48. There were 422 mentors in the schools last year; this year there are 315 active mentors.
Staci Tunkel, Center Point’s director of mentoring, said that although the organization sees around 70 percent of mentors returning for subsequent years, she is unsure as to why the number is so low this year.
For those who want to get involved, the good news is that there is virtually no limit to who can become a mentor. Center Point sees a variety of people who walk through the doors of schools to mentor through their program, including local businesses, book clubs, fraternities and sororities and Sunday school classes.
Additionally, Center Point ensures that volunteers are trained and ready to take on the role of mentor before they reach the school system.
All volunteers are given two hours of training to equip them with strategies on how to impact the students’ lives, communication, academics and behavior.
Volunteers are then sent to the school of their choice and paired with a student, with whom they will spend an hour once a week, including travel time.
The school system is also actively involved in its partnership with Center Point. While school counselors make the initial pairing of student to mentor, they also help teachers fill out evaluations on how the student has improved behaviorally since their relationship with their mentor began.
“I believe that mentoring is so natural to us. We already mentor people, and we already have mentors in our lives, and we need to view it as a natural instinct to help other people,” Tunkel said. “It’s not difficult. All you have to do is show up, and you’ve made an impact.”
The effect mentors can have on their students has an “exponential impact” according to Tunkel, who explained that those students’ can then change the dynamics of a classroom, school and even a community.
“The powerful relationships that are formed between the mentors and kids are not just impactful to the students but to the mentor, too,” Tunkel noted.
In fact, one of Center Point’s volunteers has been mentoring the same student for 11 years. This year, the mentor will be watching that student graduate from high school.
“The longer you stay in this role, the more impactful it becomes and the more rewarded you are,” said Tunkel.
While there is a particular need for male mentors, including college-aged men, Center Point is asking anyone in the community to commit.
“It can just take that first meeting with a child to make an impact,” Tunkel said. “You can’t untouch a life.”
A previous version of this article included incorrect numbers on how many mentors are involved in the program.