Wylie High School is getting a new program this fall designed to help at-risk students succeed and ultimately graduate.
Mentors Care is a state-wide program based in Midlothian that connects at-risk students with mentors from the community to help provide the students with the support and resources they need to excel.
“It’s a win/win,” said Mark Blakely, program director for Wylie. “It’s so good for the kids, and attendance is improved.”
Mentors Care was started by Dena Petty, who herself was at-risk and for a time homeless. She designed a program that provided resources she wishes she had when she was in high school. Blakely said when representatives from Mentors Care made a presentation at Region 14 Education Service Center, Wylie was the first school to see the value and want to bring the program to its students. Mentors Care then began a search for a Wylie program coordinator and found Blakely.
Blakely’s wife, Sara, is a Wylie teacher. He has had one son graduate from Wylie and another is a current student. As program coordinator, Blakely will have an office at the high school.
“It will be a hotbed of activity,” Blakely said. “If a student becomes part of the program, they get two snacks a day. I will have school supplies. I will have clothes. I will also have hygiene products.”
Key to the program is finding community members willing to mentor a student for one hour per week during the school year.
“Every week the mentor will sit down with the student and go over grades,” Blakely said. “We give them life skills. We build a relationship with them. We always have the students’ best interests at heart.”
Blakely said students will be referred to the program by teachers, counselors or administrators. Also, he said a mentor’s relationship is with the student, not the parents. Parents are not allowed to contact the mentors.
“We want to be there for the student,” he said. “We want to build a relationship with the student. We don’t judge.”
He said mentors are given training and some talking points to help move the student toward success. All mentoring will be done on the school grounds during school hours. He said if the mentor feels like the student needs additional help, Blakely will take care of that by connecting the student with the appropriate resource.
He said Mentors Care will work closely with community nonprofits and other school programs such as Communities in Schools.
Although the school district does pay a fee to Mentors Care for the program, Blakely said most districts recoup the money through less absenteeism. District’s receive state funding based on school attendance.
On average a district loses $8,600 per student who drops out and $40 per day per student who is absent, Blakely said. He said Mentors Care has had phenomenal success. Last year, all seniors who participated across the state graduated. That’s a 100 percent graduation rate.
Blakely said anyone can qualify to be a mentor.
“It’s truly rewarding,” he said. “Some of the mentors get more out of it than the kids do. You can make a difference in a kids’ life. I can never have enough mentors. I need the Wylie community to be a part of this program.”
To be a mentor, contact Blakely at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 325-660-2841.