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More than 50 professionals receive thanks from their mentees
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Columnist Dick Yarbrough, a keynote speaker at the mentor appreciation luncheon, speaks with Honors Mentorship Program students, from left, Rachel Sigfried, Nidia Bland and Chase Staub on Thursday at the Elks Club in Gainesville. - photo by PEGGY ATTAWAY

More than 50 local professionals with a heart for young people gathered at a luncheon Thursday where they were honored for taking nearly 60 students under their wings at work this year.

North Hall Middle School teacher Kathy Mellette and West Hall High School teacher Jennifer Killingsworth lead the Hall County school system’s 3-year-old Honors Mentorship Program that pairs high school juniors and seniors with professionals in careers students are considering.

"The goal is to help these students find their niche and help them learn something about what they want to do with their life," Killingsworth said.

Mellette said the luncheon was held to thank the community mentors for their time and interest in Hall County’s youth. She also said she wanted the mentors to get a glimpse of the impact they’ve had on students.

"These community people understand that they have a role in educating, too," Mellette said. "... It’s like this town is doing it for the greater good of the town. It’s unbelievable. It’s been shocking to me. I don’t think every town is like this."

Doctors, architects, ministers, Web designers and engineers were among the crowd that heard North Hall High School senior Chase Staub and Flowery Branch High School junior Nidia Bland recount their mentorship experiences, and how mentors have guided them to their chosen career paths. Both students thanked the mentors for taking time out of their busy work schedules to show them a thing or two about being a doctor or an advocate for impoverished children in the real world.

Staub spent his fall semester as a mentee with a pathologist at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. He spent this semester as a mentee with a fitness trainer at Crossfit in Gainesville.

"I really want to be a doctor — that’s my main goal — but I also wanted to learn about fitness and connect the two," he said. "I learned a lot about why I would like to do as well as what I wouldn’t like to do."

Staub said after spending time with the two mentors, he realized he would like to be a doctor that spends more time with people in the community rather than inside hospital walls. He said that realization was a valuable experience.

Bland was a mentor with Amigos for Christ, a mission work center based out of Buford that supports orphans in Nicaragua. Bland has visited Nicaragua every summer with her family since she was 8 years old. She said the mentorship experience helped confirm that her goal of becoming a social worker is the right choice.

"That’s definitely what I want to do," she said. "I saw an 8-year-old who had to take care of his two younger siblings and himself. He couldn’t go to school and had no way to brighten his future. So I want to work with (the Department of Family and Children Services) to help pull kids out of situations they don’t have control over."

Bland said the mentorship program has ignited her passion to help others.

"This program has really opened my eyes to what all the world needs, and all I can do for it," she said.

North Georgia resident and Times columnist Dick Yarbrough served as keynote speaker at the event.

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