Cape Henlopen School District Mentor Coordinator Kim Hoey Stevenson is set to launch a program designed to help children in need of a positive relationship with a supportive adult.
The pandemic took a toll on children’s mental health, Hoey Stevenson said, and other children may be experiencing homelessness or instability in their home lives.
Hoey Stevenson said she recently read a study that showed the average one-on-one time a child has with an adult is only 13 minutes a day.
By having a dedicated mentor, Hoey Stevenson said, students will receive uninterrupted time with an adult for 30 minutes a week, during which they can play a game, read a book together, or just spend time talking about what’s going on in their lives.
All students, regardless of educational abilities or class rank, from kindergarten through 12th grade will be eligible for the program, Hoey Stevenson said. Students can be referred by a teacher or parent, or can refer themselves to receive a mentor.
Each school will have a mentor coordinator who runs the program for that building, Hoey Stevenson said, and she will oversee the entire program.
Mentors complete a free two-hour training in the Creative Mentoring program, which is used in many schools statewide to teach adults how to effectively mentor and how to spot red flags that may signal the child needs more help, she said.
Mentor coordinators will work with mentors and students to fight the right fit for each. Mentors can be adults, teachers, and even high school students who will work with younger students, Hoey Stevenson said.
Consistency is important, so mentors need to commit to meeting with their mentee once a week for 30 minutes during the school day, she said. The program will run from September through May each school year.
For the relationship to really work, Stevenson said, it would be ideal if a mentor could work with a child from elementary through high school. Mentors must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear a mask in schools; a background check at no cost to the mentee is also required.
Hoey Stevenson urged mentees not to have patience when meeting with their students.
“Don’t be discouraged if a connection doesn’t happen immediately,” she said. “Kids won’t necessarily trust you right away, but don’t give up.”
Hoey Stevenson grew up in Milford and now lives in Lewes with her husband and their daughter, a Cape High senior. She formerly taught at Seaford Middle School and Southern Delaware School of the Arts, and was a communications director for the Senate Minority Caucus.
Also a freelance writer, Hoey Stevenson co-authored the book, “Overcoming Misfortune: Children Who Beat the Odds,” which explores individuals who overcome adverse conditions and, against the odds, become successful adults.
“Someone was there for them at the right time when they were needed the most, so mentoring is an important job,” she said, noting she eagerly accepted the position at Cape. “I wanted something where I could really make a difference in a kid’s life.”
Cape Director of Instructional Support LouAnn Hudson said the district planned to launch the program in the 2019-20 school year, but the pandemic delayed its start.
All mentors had been trained and some had begun meeting with students when the pandemic hit and schools were closed, she said, and some of those volunteers are returning.
“They want to be with the kids; they know a lot of kids have struggled,” Hudson said. “Having an extra positive influence in students’ lives is never a bad thing. Because of COVID, volunteers haven’t been allowed in schools as usual, and we’re ready to welcome them back.”
With a heavy population of retired teachers and professionals in the area, Hudson said she hoped to see many volunteers sign up to help. Mentors can sign up to work with more than one child, she said, and many district teachers and administrators have already signed up.
“That’s the kind of staff we have here,” Hudson said. “Some kids can benefit from just an extra boost, and others just need a stable person in their lives. It’s powerful to see a child flourish.”
To learn more about becoming a mentor, email email@example.com.