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Volunteer Mentors Help Build Crestwood Leaders

May 6, 2016

Students at Crestwood Elementary School are growing as leaders, gaining skills in art, dance, and music, and building relationships with mentors thanks to a local church’s year-long investment in the community and a massive volunteer effort by its members.

The Crestwood Leader Academy is a monthly enrichment program for a select group of students that has three key elements: clubs, leadership assemblies and mentor relationships. The 30 students who participate were selected by their teachers and school counselor.

Brian King, pastor of family ministry at The Lutheran Church of Webster Gardens, observed a similar mentoring program in Fort Worth, Texas, and brought the idea to Principal Jodi Meese for consideration. In recent years, Webster Gardens has given back to the school in other ways as well, awarding teacher grants to fund classroom purchases, donating backpacks for students in need, and hosting an annual community barbecue at Lynstone Park.

“One thing our congregation has is a heart to serve, so we were asking ‘How can we partner with the people around us, meet some needs, and build some relationships?’” King said. “We had already worked with Crestwood Elementary on a few other things, so we met with Crestwood’s administration to tailor this mentoring experience to their school, and what came out of it was Crestwood Leader Academy.”

The partnership with Webster Gardens has offered Crestwood students immediate and long term benefits, said school counselor Ann Kleitsch.

“Students really enjoy the dance, music and art activities during each session, and more importantly, the mentor time has enabled the kids to foster a relationship with an adult that encourages academic, personal, and social long term goals,” she said. “It's also an opportunity for a student to have a positive experience at school and feel a sense of belonging, which ultimately impacts their relationships, academics, and behavior.”

Mentor Amanda Ellis volunteers alongside her husband, Tim. She and her student buddy Abbey have bonded over their love of dance. Ellis said she looks forward to the time she spends each month with someone who enjoys the same things.

“I have three boys at home, so it has been fun to talk with another girl, someone who also loves dance and shares that common interest,” Ellis said. “We maybe don’t stay on topic all the time! One of our favorite things to do together is hand clap games.”

“She’s funny and likes to talk to me,” Abbey says of her mentor.

Crestwood Leader Academy meets on the afternoon of every Early Release Day. In addition to giving volunteer time, Webster Garden pays for the activity clubs that include art, music and dance, and they fund a school activity bus to take students home at the end of the afternoon.

“The first year of the Crestwood Leader Academy has been great,” says Principal Jodi Meese. “The mentors have allowed students to form another positive adult relationship in their lives. We are so grateful to have an amazing community partnership that looks to create strong bonds in our school!”

Mentors are experiencing the benefits as well.

“This experience has helped our members expand their view of who our neighbors are around us,” he said. “Whenever you spend time with an elementary school student, you’re going to gain an additional valuable perspective on life! We are looking forward to continuing this partnership.”

As mentor Barbara Balzer said, “I think childhood is so very important, and if there is anything we can do to help a child, then that is what we are here for.”
 
Volunteer Mentors Help Build Crestwood Leaders
Volunteer Mentors Help Build Crestwood Leaders
Volunteer Mentors Help Build Crestwood Leaders