Each Tuesday at the Early Childhood Center students know it’s a special day. For those with Kids Hope mentors, they know that Tuesday is the day their mentor comes to school to spend a half an hour just with them.
Kids Hope USA is a growing non-profit that partners churches and elementary schools all around West Michigan. Students who are looking for a little extra academic help or social interaction are selected by teachers and are paired with volunteering adults from Ridgewood Reformed Church right here in Jenison. All volunteers are required to complete and application, go through an interview and background check and are trained in Kids Hope and school guidelines.
For ECC principal, Lee Westerveldt, the Kids Hope partnership is part of an ongoing goal to partner with neighboring organizations in an effort to expose students to inter generational relationships. Most of the Kids Hope volunteers are senior citizens and “most find that this is a very fulfilling, really cool experience with kids.”
Parents of Kids Hope students give their permission for the mentor-mentee relationship and mentors spend 30 minutes each week with their student teaching board games, practicing reading or math or just having a nice one on one conversation. Ridgewood Kids Hope Director, Joyce Schoonejongen, says, “We are able to support the teacher, to supply another support person in the child’s life. We are dedicated to coming each week and to be a consistent person in the child’s life; we show love to the children and encourage the children.”
This is the fourth year that Ridgewood Reformed has partnered with the ECC and the applications have only increased with each year.
Ms Schoonejongen knows that the 30 minutes mentors spend with their students each week means so much more than a few board games and crafts. “Mentors and the teachers have a supportive relationship, working together for the child’s welfare so that the child will have a positive school year, making all the progress that the child is able to make. To help the child to be ready for the next academic step in their school work.”
Third year mentor and former Elementary teacher, Twylla Nieboer, knows ” it’s a joy to know that you are helping someone succeed in life.” She concedes that her mentee is quite the charmer and they love doing puzzles, reading and playing games during their time together.
“The real power behind it is when you see students get their needs met with Kids Hope or in the classroom or having enough to eat or getting enough sleep – when your needs are met, you’re successful in school.” – Lee Westerveldt
Thank you, Kids Hope volunteers, for joining Jenison Public Schools in supporting our youngest students! We’re grateful for your partnership!