Community volunteers mentor Walker students
Community volunteers mentor Walker students
Posted on 04/13/2016

Community volunteers meet regularly with freshman students at Walker High School to build positive relationships with students and help them learn about opportunities for their future.
 
The mentoring program was started in October 2015 by Walker teacher Juhi Bhatia with the support of Walker Principal Alicia Nosworthy and Chief Academic Officer Brian Lowney. It takes place every other week in the classroom at Walker. The mentors attended an information meeting last summer where they completed volunteer applications and answered questionnaires about themselves.
 
The focus is on “building relational trust with supportive and impartial adults,” said Bhatia.  “Our long-term goal is to go on field trips within the community to build relationships and to introduce students to opportunities available to them within the community as they consider future goals,” she added.
 
A recent classroom activity focused on getting to know one another. Index cards with information about either the student or mentor were passed out randomly.  The group took turns reading facts about the person as others in the classroom tried to identify the person.
 
On another day, a roundtable discussion focused on relationships and the values that are important to each student. The group discussion, led by mentor Teneka White, asked students to think about the qualities in a person that are important to them as they begin relationships. “Take a look at yourselves and what kind of values you have. Understand what you want for yourself, and have goals,” said White.
 
The students shared and discussed important values such as trust, loyalty, and respect. They were asked to consider both positive and negative things they have encountered in life and decide whether those are things they want to continue as they go forward.
 
The mentors also shared important values they have in relationships. They talked about how the choices students make today will impact their future. “You need to be an expert on you. Ask yourself ‘Why did I make that choice?’” added White.
 
There are currently eight mentors participating in the program at Walker. Many are from the local Puyallup Rotary Club and were recruited by Renne Gilliam from the YMCA Youth Investment Center. Their professions include small business owners, managers of local businesses, homemakers, retired individuals, and a city councilman.
 
Mentor Darel Roa says he enjoys mentoring the Walker students and giving back to the community. “It’s like anything in life, it’s a relationship. If we can be here often enough establishing a relationship, perhaps something good will come of it,” he said.
 
“Although the program is in its pilot year and we are working on making improvements, it is successfully bridging the gap between school and the community,” said Bhatia.  “Members of the community who are involved as mentors are developing an understanding of the many struggles that our students face.  In addition, students are learning the value of building relationships with the community,” she added.
 
The ultimate goal of the program is for each student to be assigned a mentor that supports them for their entire high school career. “We feel that this type of relationship will encourage students to do well in school, graduate, and become successful citizens of the community,” said Bhatia.