National Mentorship Program Develops Local Roots at Schneckenburger Elementary

Schneckenburger Elementary students with their mentors from the Kids Hope USA program.

Schneckenburger Elementary students with their mentors from the Kids Hope USA program.

In its nearly decade-long relationship with Schneckenburger Elementary, the Kids Hope USA mentorship program has almost tripled the number of mentors it provides to benefit students at this school.

Kids Hope USA is a national organization that partners locally with Vineyard Church of New Orleans. The church adopted Schneckenburger, allowing the program’s trained volunteers to mentor select students for an hour each week. What was 10 mentors in 2005 has now grown to 28.

“Though academics are part of the hour spent with each student, Kids Hope USA is based upon relationship building,” said chapter director Rhonda Haley. “They learn that what they say and how they feel matters. Their mentor shows up faithfully week after week just for them.”

The program targets students deemed at risk of falling behind academically, emotionally or socially. Mentors go through an interview process that includes a background check, an education on “Reducing the Risk” in students, and a training session.

Once trained, mentors are teamed with a child. Their hour-long sessions are broken into segments that allow students to open up about their week and gain valuable one-on-one tutoring. To make learning fun, mentors may have students spell with shaving cream or use a deck of cards to help visualize math facts.

“The board games used also teach the students cognitive or academic skills,” said Haley, “though they don’t know that because they’re too busy having fun.”

This national program was limited to elementary school students until it expanded in the fall of 2013. That allowed Vineyard Church to start what is now almost a two-year relationship with J.Q. Adams Middle.

“It’s a challenge, but we continue to adjust and learn how we can help our students grow to become successful,” said Haley. After all, that’s what Kids Hope is all about, bringing hope.”