Wednesday Walking PALS, Volunteers for Youth, Claremore
Christy Province, principal of the Claremore Alternative Learning/Virtual Academy, is being honored as an exceptional leader and mentor for Wednesday Walking Pals, a program that pairs mentors with elementary students for short walks while engaging in discussion points on wellness and making healthy choices.
In her role, Province coaches high school students who are Wednesday Walking peer mentors to younger Academy students on how to be a proper role model and how to effectively reach their mentees.
“What she’s doing,” says Celina Davis, PALS Program project director, “is the truest example of ‘the ripple effect.’ She is helping train her high school students to be good citizens and emulate this to the younger generation to follow suit. … Her impact is exponential.”
Davis notes that Province has been able to convince her students at the Alternative Learning school to “not only participate in something outside of themselves as peer mentors, but also engage with these younger students and protect them along the route, as well as do well in school in life – all while taking a walk!”
In involving the high school students in this project, Province showed not only keen insight into her students, but also a willingness to think outside the box, as the following story shows.
One of Province’s mentees recalls Province voicing concern early on that her high school students may not fully understand their role as peer mentors, and she quickly realized that those students could benefit from a leadership and character-building course.
“There is approximately as hour between finishing walking the students to school to the time when Alternative Living students report for class,” the mentee says. “So, she promised those students a full credit if they participated in Wednesday Walking PALS, followed by a leadership class. In order to ensure they made it every Wednesday, she promised them a homemade breakfast.”
About the Program: Wednesday Walking PALS pairs elementary students with mentors for 1/3-mile to 1/2-mile walks on safe sidewalks, engaging in discussion points on such topics as nutrition, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use, and other health topics.
Leveda Charles, a longtime volunteer mentor and now recruitment and retention specialist for the PAL Program at Volunteers for Youth, is being honored as a Champion for Mentoring in recognition of her exemplary work supporting e-PAL mentoring in Rogers County.
Charles, who has been an e-Pal mentor for many years, was instrumental in developing and implementing a new e-PAL project that pairs community business leaders with high school business and marketing students for email-based mentoring. Charles created writing prompts for the project while working closely with the teacher to follow the weekly lesson plans, trouble-shooting technology issues, and monitoring the writings of both students and mentors weekly for an entire semester.
“This was a huge project that she masterfully managed,” said Pal Mentoring Project Director Celina Davis “There were 22 mentees impacted by Leveda due to this program. This new addition was due completely to her hard work and dedication.”
Participating students said that not only did they learn so much more by connecting with an actual community business person, but their favorite part of the connection was the face-to-face meetings once a month that allowed them to ask questions or discuss ideas directly with their mentors.
Davis praised Charles for going above and beyond expectations to make the project a success. “This extra work over a mere 12-month period propelled the PAL and e-PAL Mentoring Program to new heights, exceeding all expectations for number and quality of mentoring matches,” Davis said.
Charles managed to accomplish this feat while attending to the needs of her elderly mother, a son battling a terminal illness and three high school and college-aged grand-daughters. Charles often worked nights and weekends to ensure that the job was done.
“Leveda has been a tireless volunteer and advocate before she took on the staff position for Volunteers for Youth,” Davis said. “She understands the importance of investing into these kids’ lives at critical times and helping them see their potential – long before they can see it for themselves.”
About the Program: Founded in 1998, Volunteers for Youth offers programs to positively impact the lives of youth in Rogers County. While its traditional PAL mentors meet their mentees an hour a week, e-Pal mentors correspond with their mentee through weekly email and meet in person once a month. The e-Pal program format includes writing prompts aimed at achieving certain goals, such as dropout prevention.
Travis Peck and Ashley May
PAL Program, Volunteers for Youth, Claremore
Two outstanding individuals were nominated this year as PAL Program Outstanding Mentors: Travis Peck, director of sales and marketing for moreclaremore.com, and Ashley May, managing editor, also at moreclaremore.com. They were nominated by PAL Program Project Director Celina Davis.
Peck has mentored Fuller Stephens, a student at Inola Middle School, for three years. According to Davis, Fuller sought out a consistent male role model. His family was all female, and they tended to move often, so establishing relationships was difficult for him. In fact, according to Davis, the youth began their first meeting with, “So what’s your favorite sport and who’s your favorite sports team?”
“There could have been trouble,” Davis added, “when Peck’s answer was ‘OU all the way,’ seeing as Travis is a diehard Cowboy who bleeds orange.” Happily, the youth took his to-be mentor’s response on as a challenge, and a friendly rivalry ensued. “Three years and several moves and school changes later, and Travis is still with Fuller, and Bedlam is continuous,” Davis quipped.
Davis believes that one of the most important things Peck has taught his mentee concerns the importance, and rewards, of giving back. To this end, she observes, this “dynamic duo” created a “house divided” chair (OU vs. OSU) and a Thunder basketball-themed chair for the organizations’ annual “Chair-ity Auction” fundraiser.
May has mentored Gracie Sitsler, a student at Westside Elementary School in Claremore, for two years. Though May denies any great talent in this area, she enjoys working with her mentee in her favorite activity: crafts. However, the mentor is improving with the help of her mentee.
When Gracie was in first grade, Davis says, May – a keen observer – recognized that the child was having difficulty with basic sight words and other standard work. By alerting the program director and speaking with the school counselor and her teacher, May was able to intervene in a timely manner.
When May went to visit Gracie at school following summer bream, she was uncertain the child would even remember her, Davis says. However, she need not have worried. “The instant Gracie saw her in the office, she leapt into her arms to give her a huge hug.”
Fortuitously, the moment was captured on camera, and subsequently posted on social media, along with a heartfelt plea for more members of the community to volunteer as mentors. “This single photo and heartfelt plea has propelled out program forward more than any other outreach efforts we’ve done this year,” Davis points out.
About the Program: The PAL Program is a school-based mentoring program that matches Rogers County public school students with a caring adult mentor. The mentor’s purpose is to build self-esteem, confidence and self-worth in the student while building a friendship.