State recognizes WWU mentoring program with Shuksan Middle School

  • Western Washington University student Kaelee Berg, right, helps Shuksan Middle School students Sumeet Panwar and David Trejo create community action flyers for their group Operation Change during a mentoring session at the middle school this past year. Ph
    Western Washington University student Kaelee Berg, right, helps Shuksan Middle School students Sumeet Panwar and David Trejo create community action flyers for their group Operation Change during a mentoring session at the middle school this past year. Ph

Washington Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen visited Shuksan Middle School on Tuesday, Oct. 27, to honor Western Washington University’s Youth Outreach Initiative. The Woodring College of Education mentoring program provides tutoring and mentoring assistance for Shuksan students through in-class assistance and after-school programming.

Staff from Bank of America and the Washington State Mentors program joined Owen in recognizing the initiative and other honorees, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington and Youthnet Foster Care to College. Each of these honorees received a grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. Only 14 organizations in the state received this grant.

Youth 4 R.E.A.L (Relationships, Exploration, Action and Leadership), one of WWU’s youth outreach initiatives, uses fun and interactive activities to provide a positive environment for Shuksan’s students. WWU mentors meet after school with students once a week to help increase emotional and social development, using everything from icebreakers to written activities.

Angie Harwood, the supervisor for the youth outreach initiatives and a professor of secondary education at WWU, says Youth 4 R.E.A.L has grown every year. When the program initially started four years ago, just 10 students enrolled. For the 2009-10 school year, 48 of 90 applicants were accepted. Students are usually recommended, nominated or encouraged to apply by a teacher or administrator.

The 16 WWU mentors benefit from the program as well, Harwood said. After mentoring in small and large groups, they recognize that each child has a different background.

“The mentors have a more personal understanding of each child after working for this program,” Harwood said. “They understand the kids’ behavior and actions on a different level.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters has had the same amount of success at Shuksan. When the program started four years ago, only 4 students were matched with a big brother or sister. This year, the school is currently working to match 23 students, Shuksan Principal Andrew Mark said.

Principal Mark said he has seen a difference in the way mentored students participate in the classroom. They have more confidence while interacting with not only their teachers, but their peers as well, he said. By helping create a community-based project alongside their mentor, as students who are involved in Youth 4 R.E.A.L do, they also have more of an appreciation for their surrounding community.

Lt. Gov. Owen said that without providing youth with mentors, especially youth faced with challenges and obstacles, healthy and safe communities can not be guaranteed.

WWU’s Youth Outreach Initiative, along with the other two honorees, has succeeded because of its determined students, mentors and supervisors.

“Schools can’t do everything on their own,” Principal Mark said. “Help from outside groups makes a difference, especially during the critical middle school years. Mentor relationships create the positive influence so many of our students need for success.”

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - 4:28pm

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