12/13/17 — To be a mentor

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To be a mentor

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 13, 2017 5:50 AM

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From left, Selena Bennett, executive director of Communities Supporting Schools of Wayne County, and Barbara Wilkins, success coach at Goldsboro High School, listen as Lisa Lee, GHS parent and volunteer mentor at the school, talks about the merits of the CSS mentoring program that pairs volunteers with students at the school.

Lisa Lee saw the merits of a mentoring program at Goldsboro High School early on.

Her son graduated from the school, and her daughter is now a junior.

Plus, Lee had been in their shoes.

"I graduated from GHS in 1984," she said. "I see a lot of kids that could probably benefit from mentors, somebody positive in their life.

"I just wanted to give back."

She signed up earlier in the semester to be part of the effort.

The program officially kicked off this year in October, after providing training for the mentors, said Barbara Wilkins, success coach at GHS.

Communities Supporting Schools of Wayne County has led the concept for several years now -- through its Success Coach program at six middle and high schools, expanding to include volunteers partnered with students.

Lee says she has enjoyed the relationships being forged during the two hours a week she spends, two days a week working with four students.

"I mostly give them time to express themselves, find out about their interests, what they want to do after high school," she said. "I let them know that I'm there for them, it's not just for me."

Charles Williams is a first-time mentor, prompted since retiring from a law enforcement career and a desire to steer young people into a better direction. He prefers to guide them toward a bright future rather than responding to a growing prison population, he said.

Patrick Lechner has been a volunteer in the mentor program for four or five years, he said. Now a superintendent in the maintenance department for the city of Goldsboro, he also serves on the CSS board.

His reasons for becoming a mentor were prompted by his own background.

"I was a high school dropout, and I'm hoping that I can help some of these kids prevent making the same decisions I have made," he said. "The more I do it, the more I realize they're really not prepared for what's going to happen after."

CSS has worked to anticipate that need, making students more aware that college and jobs are viable options, said Selena Bennett, CSS executive director.

To help reinforce the concept, a caravan of mentors took a tour of Wayne Community College this week, followed by a lunchtime discussion at the Chamber of Commerce.

"We're trying to help them not only look at the fact that they (students) can go away for an education but they can begin a career here," Bennett said. "We're finding a lot of our kids can get what they need at Wayne (Community College).

"It's also a great way for us to work with the workforce in the community because they need skilled workers."

Lee said she is on board with the idea, crediting the new GHS principal, Marcia Manning, with being receptive as well.

"I'm so grateful for Ms. Manning -- she has really done a wonderful job," Lee said. "They were talking about having the juniors and seniors going on a college trip. I said I think they need to start as freshmen.

"I know it's a matter of cost but if you do it locally, it won't be that much. And I think the earlier you expose (students), the more positive feedback."

Having WCC and the University of Mount Olive both in Wayne County is a dividend, Bennett said, as students realize higher education -- as well as certificate programs and vocational training -- is more within reach.

"In a perfect world, every parent would be able to help their child navigate through the educational process," she said. "But not all parents know how to get their child from Point A to Point B.

"We have got people like this group to help connect those pieces. That's a big service to those children."