By RENEE COBARRUVIAS/Librarian
If you walked into Clack Middle School on Oct. 5, you would see a rare sight – middle school boys in neckties and girls in pearl necklaces. What would cause a middle school student to wear a necktie on a Friday?
It was because the second annual Mentors Making a Difference Breakfast was taking place at Clack. This year, the breakfast featured some amazing, hard-working people in the community who have experienced life failures and trials but chose not to become a victim. They in turn used their pain as power, becoming business owners and doing positive things in our community. After a delicious breakfast and motivational speeches, the boys were given a necktie and taught how to tie it. The girls were given “pearl” necklaces to remind them that beautiful things can come out of struggles.
The best part of the morning was that the students were introduced to mentors that will work with them throughout the school year. The mentors are encouraged to come eat lunch with the students and check in with them all throughout the year.
Staff member Lakisha Jackson created this program to inspire students and surround them with a community that is willing to help them succeed. Ms. Jackson is the motivational-emotional support staff at Clack. She came up with the idea after seeing a need in her own children. Her family had suffered some very tragic deaths and unfortunate situations, and she knew she needed to expand her village. She started looking for great men and women in her church and community that would help her inspire her offspring. She saw how her boys were responding and decided it could be a blessing for her students as well.
The mentors program is designed to serve a percentage of students from each grade level that seem to need an extra support to help them stay on the path to success. The goal is to encourage all students to make good choices, stay in school and prepare for the future.
Since the start of this program a year ago, Ms. Jackson says that she has seen a positive shift for many of the students. Several students who were contemplating dropping out or had been through the juvenile criminal justice system are now honor students in high school. The students that take the program seriously, and are still at Clack, are now peer mentors on campus.
Ms. Jackson could not have started the Mentors Making a Difference program by herself. The Clack staff has given her additional support. According to Ms. Jackson, Ann Smith, a sixth grade ELA teacher, has been by her side helping her brainstorm ideas and making her dream a reality. This year, Ms. Jackson received a grant from the Abilene Education Foundation to help fund the program.
All of this is amazing, but Ms. Jackson’s dream is not finished yet. She hopes that one day there will be a mentor program on every campus in AISD and the surrounding areas. If her story has inspired you to do something like this on your campus, maybe you should give her a call.