Archive for Thursday, August 17, 2006

Caring Cats

Student volunteers get a jump start on school year

August 17, 2006

The Basehor-Linwood High School Care Cats are not wasting any time lending a helping hand this school year.

About 52 juniors and seniors visited the school library during the first and second days of school for Care Cats training.

Care Cats, a branch of YouthFriends volunteering program, allows high school students to mentor children in elementary school. Coordinator Tammy Potts said training outlined for new Care Cats what their roles will be in the classrooms and taught them what mentoring is all about.

"You are all going into the classroom as kids that younger kids look up to," Potts told a group of trainees Tuesday morning. "You'll be doing a little bit of everything -- counting out little teddy bears, learning your numbers, learning the ABCs -- that's big stuff to kindergartners."

Students also watched videos featuring testimonials from YouthFriend volunteers or discussing how to spot and mediate bullying in the classroom.

Some seasoned veterans such as senior Kara Eldridge were allowed to start mentoring as early as Tuesday.

Depending on the block scheduling for the week, Eldridge said she will be visiting Karen Liljestrand's first-grade class at Basehor Elementary School for an hour and a half to two hours, two or three times a week.

Liljestrand introduced Eldridge to the class when she arrived Tuesday morning.

"She's kind of the second boss here," Liljestrand explained to the class. "She is wonderful and she wants to be a teacher."

Eldridge spent her first day back in the classroom learning names, tying shoelaces and helping students with exercises in their workbooks.

Liljestrand said she has had several good student volunteers throughout the years, but Eldridge has been one of the best. She said, for example, while her class was learning about the human body last year, Eldridge brought in a model of the human heart for the children from the high school

"She is so good at doing things on her own," Liljestrand said. "I don't have to ask her to do anything."

She said Eldridge gives the students the one-on-one attention they need to help with frustrations and behavioral problems.

"It's been a very successful program," Liljestrand said. "I couldn't do it without them."

Between fire drill exercises and recess, several students recognized Eldridge, waved and ran to greet her with smiles and hugs. She said her role as a Care Cat goes along with her desire to become a teacher.

"Watching them grow from the very beginning -- just to know that you helped that -- it's really rewarding."

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