Schools need more mentors
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 25, 2010 1:46 PM
Goldsboro High School student Michael King speaks about how the Communities in Schools mentor program has helped him make better decisions, during a celebration luncheon for volunteers and students Wednesday. In the background is Barbara Wilkins, GHS graduation coach.
Volunteers and mentors are making a difference at Goldsboro High School, but more are still needed, several said during a celebratory luncheon at the school Wednesday.
Communities in Schools Director Sudie Davis said an estimated 60 volunteers have stepped forward this year to work with students at the school. Earlier in the year, a graduation coach was also hired to work more closely with struggling seniors.
Barbara Wilkins, graduation coach, was retired from a career as an educator and administrator in the public school system when she accepted the position at GHS. At the outset, she said she told the high school students they have been her "serendipity, my most pleasant surprise."
"I have found them to be very receptive, appreciative, and I could not ask for people to treat me with more respect than the students at Goldsboro High School," she said.
When they would ask why she was at their school, she said her reply was simple -- "Because I want to be here."
And then she asked students what reaction they got when people found out they went to Goldsboro High School.
"One of the girls, very animated, said, 'When I went to Eastern Wayne High School and told people, they would say, Oh, that's a good school or that's a really good place to be,'" Mrs. Wilkins said. When the student transferred to GHS, though, reactions were more reserved.
One student, Mrs. Wilkins said, said he simply told people he went to Aycock, to avoid the silent stares.
"We're trying to change the image of GHS and make our students feel proud of where they go to school," she said. "They work hard and they want to be proud of where they go to school."
Mrs. Wilkins has enlisted help from the community to work with students -- some as tutors, others as mentors.
And Wednesday, the volunteers were honored at a luncheon, where keynote speakers were a student and one of the tutors who responded to the challenge to support the school.
Senior Michael King said there is much to be proud of at Goldsboro High School, and hopefully the public will respond and support the students there.
"They need mentors, people to sit down and talk to them," he said. "If they had just one person to work with them, help them with their attitude, even the small things, (you) probably would hear more good things about the school."
It turned out, though, that the negative comments heard in the community brought out one volunteer.
Jerry Narron, a former baseball player manager of Cincinnati Reds, who grew up in Goldsboro and graduated from GHS in 1974, said he was disturbed by the public's perception of his alma mater.
"The 'bad apple' comments just rubbed me the wrong way," he said, referring to a businessman's comments about the school. "It broke my heart. I feel like the people of Goldsboro are my family.
"I got involved because of it and I do appreciate it. It got me involved."
Narron started out helping with some P.E. classes, then tutored a student in history for his end-of-course test, which the student ended up passing.
It didn't take him long, Narron said, to realize the importance of a graduation coach at the school.
"I don't know all the politics of it, but I do know that the right person was selected to be the graduation coach," he said. "She has a passion for these students out here, a love for these students out here. It's a needed position and I appreciate the people, Communities in Schools, and Wayne County commissioners and Goldsboro City Council, that got it going."
Narron praised those willing to become a tutor or mentor for a student.
"There's a desire here in this school to break out of a cycle," he said. "They want and they deserve our respect. I know it all starts at home but when they're not at home and they're here, that's where they deserve our help and our support. ... I know it makes a difference. I came out here with the idea just to plant some seeds, trying to a positive influence on just one person.
"What I'm asking for you and other people, it's not about money -- it's much more valuable than money -- it's about your time and your influence. These students want to know they're supported."
Cathy Hollowell, manager of infectious disease control at Wayne Memorial Hospital, has been mentoring a student this year.
"It does allow me to give back to my alma mater," she said. "If I can have some small part in some child's success other than my own, it's rewarding."
Another volunteer, Al Hall, had taught at GHS for 19 years and was retired when the opportunity to tutor arose.
"I came to help some of the football guys who were trying to pass math, getting them ready to go on to the next level," he said.
He said it's important to "put feet on our conversations" and for everyone in the district to rally around the fledgling school.
"If you have got one school that's failing, everyone is failing," he said. "We have got to rally around. That's not happening."
There is plenty for everyone to do, agreed Margaret Lee Wilkins, who has worked with several individuals and groups as a tutor and mentor.
The need goes beyond assisting students with their academics, she noted.
For some of these students, the role of a healthy relationship is lacking.
"We need mentors -- come out here and take a kid out to lunch," she said. "Come out here and just get to know somebody."