FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 1, 1999 Contact: Diane Thomas (714) 834-6203
Volunteer Mentors Reap Rewards and Kudos
(SANTA ANA) – Students from Pio Pico Elementary School in Santa Ana will walk from their classrooms to the Board of Supervisors meeting on March 2. They plan to personally thank the 51 County employees who have given up lunch hours for the last four months to voluntarily mentor the students.
According to Judy Magsaysay, Pio Pico School principal, the volunteers are credited with helping 80 percent of those mentored move up two grade levels in the informal reading indicator category.
"The interpersonal connection with a caring adult is the one thing that makes all the difference for these children," said Magsaysay. "The kids now seem to carry themselves with more confidence. Their behavior both in the classroom and on the playground improves with that increased self-esteem, and they seem to become more connected with their school and their community."
Once each week, the mentors spent 45 minutes going over individualized lesson plans with their assigned students helping them to improve their English skills in reading, writing, spelling and speaking.
"There are magic moments when you mentor a child," said Patty Hunsicker, an employee working in CEO/Human Resources. "For me, when I see the greatness of a child coming through, I want to capitalize on that by letting them know how unique and special they are. And when you can see that the child is absorbing what you’re saying …well I wouldn't trade that for a million dollars."
Charles V. Smith, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, brought the pilot mentoring program to the attention of the Board last fall. As Supervisor of the First District, which includes Santa Ana, Smith asked the Supervisors to approve flexible lunch hours for those County employees participating in the program.
"The mentoring program is a win-win situation," said Smith. "Working with professionals, the children are introduced to the many possibilities available to them. In turn, County workers have an opportunity to become connected with the rich and diverse community they work in."
Pio Pico Elementary School, located in the center of one of Santa Ana’s poorest neighborhoods, was the only school in Orange County selected to receive a state mentoring grant.