For the past few months on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, a group of J.C. Parks Elementary School students has been staying after school to spend quality time with peers from their feeder high school – Henry E. Lackey. This is part of a pilot mentoring program launched this school year through the support of Parks Principal Greg Miller. He said it was a chance for his students and school to benefit from a supportive relationship with a neighboring school.
Participants at Parks are selected by their teachers and are students who benefit from the extra resources, Miller said. The program includes students who are mostly in grades 3 to 5 and about 25 National Honor Society students from Lackey. The groups meet twice a week for about an hour, with Lackey mentors helping their mentees with assignments ranging from math problems and worksheets, to helping with reading lessons and writing assignments.
Selina Dominguez-Amaya is a fourth grader at Parks and comes to the mentoring sessions weekly. She works primarily with Lackey senior Natasha Collins and said she likes the program because Collins has taught her fun math tips. “She helps me if I do not understand something. She taught me a cool finger trick with multiplication. We can use our fingers to multiply,” Dominguez-Amaya said.
In turn, Collins said she participates because she enjoys working with children. She is the community service coordinator for the Lackey National Honor Society and tries to visit the Parks students each week. On average, about three to four of the participating Lackey students attend weekly. “I like just being able to talk to the kids. I like helping them with their homework and teaching them new things,” Collins said.
Miller said the idea came together after he approached Lackey Principal Kathy Perriello about launching a program that would support both sets of students. “My daughter attends a high school in another county and helps to mentor other kids. It was something I wanted to bring back here for my students and their community,” Miller said.
Not only do the Lackey students mentor at Parks weekly. They also attend other school events and volunteer their time wherever it is needed. This year, the group helped with Parks’ Trunk or Treat, holiday night, STEAM night and most recently, Friendship Night. “They really do support us and the community,” Miller said.
Lackey senior Zachary Zalovick attends weekly and said he enjoys working with the elementary schoolers. Zalovick became interested in taking part in the mentoring program because he likes helping other students. “I like helping them play learning games. I have a younger sister and I like helping her learn so I figured this would be fun and would help me learn how to continue to help my sister,” Zalovick added.
As part of a class assignment, Parks fourth grader Demetrius Lovelace was tasked with writing a poem. During a recent mentoring session, Collins helped Lovelace with his poem for class. “My teacher liked my poem,” Lovelace said. “Natasha also helps me with my writing and reading. And my homework.”
Michelle Magner is an English teacher at Lackey and is a first-year sponsor of the National Honor Society. She was excited for her students to participate in the mentoring program and helps at the weekly sessions. “It’s fun and the kids enjoy it. Both my high school students and the younger kids. We have a good time,” she said.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.