Archive for Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Successful education mentoring program expands since inception

February 27, 2002

The Basehor-Linwood School District YouthFriends program has become one of the most successful program of its kind in Kansas since its inception in 2000, educators said.

YouthFriends is a volunteer program that places mentors with students for tutoring and other mentoring needs.

Educators across the Kansas City metro area are celebrating the program's success this month, and that success can be seen in the participation of volunteers throughout the Basehor-Linwood School District.

Currently, there are 54 school districts in Kansas with a YouthFriends program and 29 in Missouri.

According to statistics, the Basehor-Linwood YouthFriends has one of the largest groups of volunteers working in a single school district.

There are 152 YouthFriends volunteers in the Basehor-Linwood School District. In 2000, the program started with 43.

Educators and volunteers across the area celebrate national YouthFriends month during February.

YouthFriends co-coordinator Mary Leanard said there were two reasons why the Basehor-Linwood program has been so successful.

"The first is that Basehor is a good volunteer community," Leanard said. "The second is that YouthFriends provides the training and screening materials to make the volunteer program that successful."

It appears parents, students and educators are also pleased with the YouthFriends program.

An annual survey conducted by the organization indicates that:

83.6 percent of the students with a YouthFriends volunteer believed the experience was valuable to them.

89.2 percent of educators felt YouthFriends was valuable to student participants.

70.6 percent of parents with students working with a YouthFriends volunteer said their student has done better at school since working with a volunteer.

"The greatest benefit is to the student," Leanard said. "It's a win-win situation. The student has one more caring adult in their life and the volunteer gets a great deal of satisfaction from helping a young person."

Students can receive help from YouthFriends by having their parents call the organization to request assistance.

Although the program has been successful, Leanard said the program has room to improve.

Funding for the program has always been in short supply and in the future, the program could expand with additional revenue, she said.

The program receives $1,200 a year for operating expenses from the Basehor-Linwood School District.

Cal Cormack, Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent, says the program is a great benefit to the school district.

"We're very supportive of YouthFriends," he said. "It's very important for people to realize that the school district doesn't exist independent of the community."

Cormack said funding for YouthFriends could be increased in the future.

District officials will review the budget in the coming months to see if additional funds are available for the program, Cormack said.

Leanard said any additional funds for the program would pay for a full-time coordinator and for recognizing existing staff members.

The school district, along with school districts across the country, is celebrating the success of the program this month

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