Katy ISD’s Keep Encouraging Youth toward Success mentoring program has grown to more than 900 mentors impacting the lives of children across the school district since it began in the 1995-96 school year with four mentors and four first graders from Winborn Elementary School.
“[The mentors’ impact] is huge, because for some of these kids, that may be the only time they have with an adult one-on-one during the week,” said Partners in Education Specialist Martha Brown. “They’re a complement to other adults in the child’s life. They don’t have a hidden agenda. They’re here to say, ‘I’m just here to listen and be your cheerleader and an advocate.'”
Not a tutoring program, KEYS allows each mentor one hour a week to visit with a student on campus during school hours, Brown said. The program kicks off the school year with an event from 8-9:30 a.m. Sept. 19 at the Merrell Center, located at 6301 South Stadium Lane. KISD campuses will host tables for their mentors and for community members interested in becoming a mentor.
“It’s a great venue to learn more about mentoring and see if it’s a good fit,” Brown said.
Brown said students selected for the mentoring program have to be referred, and usually are struggling with low grades, excessive absences or discipline referrals. Survey results from the 2012-13 school year showed 87 percent of students participating in the program received fewer discipline referrals, 91 percent saw fewer absences and 85 percent improved their grades.
Brown said the program can be accommodating to mentors’ schedules, but mentors must undergo a background check and make a serious commitment to a student.
“It’s a very serious commitment, and it’s not like any other volunteer opportunities they will have, because they’re telling this child, ‘No matter what happens I’m going to show up,'” she said. “This is not the kind of volunteer opportunity where you do it for a month and decide you don’t want to do it anymore.”
Although the mentor and student relationship stays on campus grounds, Brown said mentors can attend public events for their students, such as band concerts or soccer games. She said many mentors develop bonds with their students and stick with the same student for years, such as one mentor of a graduating Katy senior who has been with the same student since the first grade.
Since the program’s inception, Brown said thousands of students have been mentored. KEYS even began providing scholarships for students who have been part of the program for at least two years.
“A lot of mentors go in thinking, ‘I’m going to change this kid,’ but it ends up, ‘This kid is changing me,'” Brown said. “Mentoring gives you the opportunity to really change the life of one person. We can’t change the world, but we can make a difference in one person’s life.”
For more information on the program, call 281-396-2468 or go to www.katyisd.org.