By John Fulton
Kid’s Hope USA (KHUSA) is active in all three Vicksburg Elementary Schools, Sunset Lake, Tobey and Indian Lake. The program pairs up local churches with local elementary schools. Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene is the local church responsible for the program at Indian Lake Elementary School for at-risk students. Lakeland Reformed and Vicksburg United Methodist Church work with children at the other two elementaries.
Chapman Memorial currently has 10 mentors involved with 10 students at Indian Lake Elementary. Nancy Smith has been the Kid’s Hope USA director for Chapman Memorial for the past year. Smith took over from Kelly Downs, the director since inception several years ago.
Smith, a mentor herself says, “The goal is that each student understands the mentor knows the student’s name, the mentor meets with the student, the mentor is faithful to the student and believes in the student. A mentor is a role model for students, loves children, respects diversity and is faithful to their role.
Stressors that affect the students include changes in family dynamics, economics, self-esteem, homelessness, academics, and a “me-first” mentality among others, Smith said. “These all make the mentor’s role vital to the success of at-risk students. Mentors step in to give attention to students that need more time,” Smith said.
Mentors meet with their child once a week during school hours at the school. The hour is a balance of getting to know each other, planning, academic development and some fun time. This is an outreach of love. It is purely aimed at making the future brighter for the kids being served.
Mentors can make a real difference in lives. Smith said, “The mantra of Kid’s Hope USA is One Child, One Hour, One Church and One School.” Educators report that a relationship with a Kid’s Hope mentor significantly impacts at-risk children because it helps meet their emotional, social and academic needs. Principals report growth in attitude, behavior, attendance and academic performance because of the relationship with KHUSA mentors.”
Smith recalls her most memorable KHUSA moment as when a student gave her a handwritten note on paper made from pulp by the student during a special program on how to be earth-minded. Smith stated the note said, “Thank you for being here with me.”
Smith was touched that the student gave up what she had just made to give Smith recognition that she was there for the student.
“The mentors at Chapman Memorial are an awesome group that truly care about kids, are faithful to the students and committed to the KHUSA program. These are the qualities essential to being a mentor,” according to Smith.
This story has been about connections and KHUSA. The underlying story is about a mentor connecting with a child in a loving and meaningful relationship that has life-long benefits. Mentors often see the same child throughout their elementary years and stay connected even into adulthood. The kids view the mentor as an important part of their life and a role model. Some surveys have been conducted on outcomes showing improvement of 79 percent in socio/emotional competencies, 65 percent in educational success and 56 percent improved attitude toward risky behaviors in a sample of 172 children in two states.
Eighty percent of the national program is funded from donations, corporate community sponsors, foundations and church offerings. A 20 percent affiliate fee is paid by a church when it joins the program.
If a church doesn’t have a KHUSA program, it can connect with KHUSA to make a difference in a child’s life. The website is http://www.kidshopeusa.org or call (866) 546-3580.