US Navy personnel mentor elementary students in a unique program, benefiting at risk elementary school children.
In October, the staff of Joshua Butler Elementary School began a mentoring program that has U.S. Navy personnel from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve in Belle Chasse Louisiana visit the school to spend time with troubled students. The idea is to provide students with positive role models from outside the school. The mentors typically spend a day every other week at Butler, working in small groups on conflict resolution, playing games and eating lunch with children.
Mentors at Butler Elementary
“A lot of our kids have challenges in their families that they have to deal with, and some don’t have a father figure,” school social worker Niki Madere said. “It’s very important that they have positive male models.”
The program is part of the school’s broader initiative to address behavior and discipline problems that have, in the past, made progress at Butler difficult. Of the 485 students at the school, 90 percent receive a free or discounted lunch, a standard measure of poverty in education circles. The average in Jefferson Parish public schools, is 76 percent, and the state average is 66 percent.
Butler’s mentor program has quickly grown in popularity with its students. Madere said students in her counseling groups ask to look at her calendar, to see when the mentors are coming next.
The program includes a “conscious discipline” method of teaching students to resolve conflict without fighting. Butler also brought in behavior specialist Brooke Gestrich in August, to work with specific students.
Gestrich said that simply having a role model from outside school often helps to reinforce good behavior. “It kind of shows them that this is the way other members of society act outside of school,” Gestrich said.
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