Thirty-eight Waxahachie ISD seniors who served as mentors during the 2018-2019 school year were honored recently for their service.
“You have impacted these other students in ways you will never realize,” interim Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain told the seniors as she thanked them for their efforts to help younger students in the district’s elementary and junior high schools.
The mentoring program is part of the district’s CTE Community Service and Post-secondary Transition program, with the student mentors a subset of the seniors who enroll in the district’s community service program, which is a state elective class that allows participants to earn a grade and credit.
Each year, the community service program draws participation from about a third of all WISD senior students. Of those, several dozen drawn from between Global and Waxahachie High schools are specially selected and trained to serve as mentors to younger students.
All WISD students who successfully complete the community service class receive a cord to wear at graduation. The student mentors earn an additional cord for their work. During the recent luncheon in their honor, they were presented their community service cords along with a gift from their respective students.
Dana Galbraith of The Oaks Fellowship Church shared with the seniors how Academy Award winning director Steven Spielberg credits having had a mentor for his success.
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves,” Spielberg has said, with Galbraith adding as her thoughts, “My hope is you will remember what you have learned and that you, yourself, pursue a mentor.
“I applaud you for your service and for being willing to change lives,” she said.
After the ceremony, several of the seniors visited with the Sun about their mentoring experiences.
Global senior Evalina Ramirez, who will attend the University of North Texas as a double major in marketing and management, was inspired to become a mentor because she had been bullied in the lower grades.
“I felt the need and this was me trying to give somebody what I didn’t have. Since I heard about it, I wanted to do this as community service,” said Ramirez, whose assigned student was a Coleman Junior High sixth-grader. “I helped her prioritize and helped her with her homework. We played a lot of games and just talked.”
Ramirez said she feels good about the progress made over their time together: “The best part and the highlight for me was seeing how excited she was to see me. It was the enjoyment I had doing this and being able to fill that void with her that I didn’t have.”
Global senior Seth Clark will attend UNT as a finance major with a goal of going into corporate law.
“I really did enjoy it,” he said of being a mentor to a Coleman sixth-grader. “He was on top of his homework so I just helped him with some with his projects.”
The younger student would experience social anxiety around others so part of Clark’s mission was to help him become more open and comfortable. “I heard from the teacher that this did help him,” Clark said. “I was happy doing it.”
Global senior Esmeralda Guerrero will attend UNT and major in hospitality management. She was assigned a sixth-grader at Finley Junior High, with a goal of helping him with some behavioral issues.
“It was more life-related than academics,” she said, noting that although she doesn’t have a younger brother, she does have younger sisters, which helped her in providing some guidance on what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
“I’d talk with him about how it’s important to be good,” she said. “And I think it helped him having an older girl talking to him.”
WHS senior Eric Johnson will attend Vermilion Community College in Minnesota, where he’ll continue playing football. He participated in the mentoring program because “I really wanted to influence someone and make a change in their life.”
Johnson said he’s had a mentor and it was a positive influence in his life. He was assigned a seventh-grader at Coleman.
“I feel like I could do more if I had more time but I feel I did a good job,” he said, saying he and the younger student spent much of their time together writing stories.
“I’d tell him to use his creativity,” Johnson said. “I’d write stories with him and we both enjoyed that. It’s important to make that connection to someone that’s younger.”
WHS senior Brittany Aucoin will attend Lamar University to study sign language interpretation.
“My sister mentored last year and she really enjoyed it so I followed in her footsteps,” said Aucoin, who was assigned two fifth-grade girls at Dunaway Elementary. Much of her time was spent listening and talking to them in one-on-one sessions – and helping them with their coping skills.
“The best part was seeing how much I helped them,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much it was going to impact their lives. I’m going to miss those kids so much. They were a big part of my life this year and I wish I had more time with them.”
WHS senior Ashlee Nutt will study biomedicine at Texas A&M University with a goal of becoming a pediatric nurse. She had planned to do community service as a teacher’s aide but was drawn into the mentoring program because of the need. She was assigned a first-grade boy at Northside Elementary the first semester and added a fourth-grade girl at that campus the second semester.
By the end of the year, both had improved as a result of their one-on-one interactions with Nutt, with the boy better able to channel his energies and behaviors and the girl becoming more open and less shy.
“I’m going to miss them and I’m going to miss being a part of the program,” said Nutt, who still managed to get in some hours as a teacher’s aide. “I’ll miss the classroom as well. All the kids were really sweet.”
Global senior Quinton Burton will take a gap year to pursue a magazine internship before heading to the University of Texas at El Paso for a degree in video editing. He was assigned a Coleman sixth-grader.
“We talked a lot,” he said. “I became a friend to the kid.”
Both of Burton’s parents are teachers and he also volunteers at his church. With that background, he said he didn’t think the mentoring program would be hard but he did find it was a different experience because of its one-on-one focus.
“I would definitely do it again,” he said. “And I’d encourage other seniors to do it.”
WISD director of grants management Mark Bosher describes the CTE Community Service and Post-secondary Transition program as “one of the brightest lights in the district.”
“The mentor program we celebrate [at this luncheon] is just one of many pathways students travel on their course to adulthood,” he said.
Bosher extended credit to “three of the most inspirational faculty members in WISD,” naming Melissa Cobb, director for the district’s Partners in Education program; Deborah DeNicola, community services and post-secondary transition specialist; and Misty Cox, director of community service at Global High School.
As part of his remarks, Bosher shared President Lyndon Johnson’s quote, “We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors,” before adding, “I can think of no staff members that do more to ensure our students are equipped with the sense of purpose and giving … so necessary and meaningful for post-secondary life. Please join me in grateful applause for Melissa Cobb, Deborah DeNicola and Misty Cox.”