Submitted by guest contributor Annie Hosfield
It’s hard to find anyone that would want to re-live their middle school years. Raging hormones, changing bodies, first crushes, driver’s permits, and different schools are just some of the major obstacles that adolescents face during that awkward life stage.
Aside from these stressors, however, there are a number of other variables that can make these years difficult. While school struggles, depression, substance abuse, bullying, and self-esteem issues are never pleasant, middle school can be an especially tough time to understand and cope with these problems.
The good news is that kids are not alone. For about 15 middle school students in surrounding schools, including Central Decatur, North Harrison, and Lamoni, extra help is available through student volunteers in the Graceland University Life Skills mentoring program.
Sponsored by TRIO, the federally-funded grant allows students on campus to meet and interact with middle school students on a friendly, personal level.
“You’re a responsible adult that they can turn to talk about anything that is bothering them or making them upset,” says program coordinator, Tracey Dale. “We want mentors that can be positive role models for these kids.”
Besides interacting with the adolescents on a weekly basis — whether through text, email, or Facebook — GU mentors also attend monthly social events with the kids. Past events have included picnics, games on campus, etiquette classes, trips to The Alley or Des Moines, and community service projects.
“The only problem we really have with the program is scheduling conflicts,” Dale says. “We do most of our activities on the weekends or on Wednesday nights, so it can be really hard for student athletes or busy workers to make it. We need volunteers that can be dedicated and committed to making a connection with the students… they need it the most.”
Graceland students can use the program as more than just a wholesome extracurricular activity; the Life Skills program is a class that can be counted as a psychology elective credit for up to three semesters. It is a class that looks great on resumes for future teachers, counselors, or psychologists.
So what are you waiting for? If you think you can be a caring role model for young students, contact Dale in the basement of Walker Hall, Room 11, or at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information for Fall 2014 mentoring opportunities.