In its 19th year with an active school-based learning, mentoring initiative, the Basehor-Linwood school district is celebrating January as national Mentoring Month. With more than 125 adult mentors and nearly 100 high school juniors and seniors who serve as role models to students in USD 458, there’s a lot to be thankful for.

Volunteers give their time and energy to students throughout the district in various responsibilities. Formerly known as YouthFriends around the metropolitan Kansas City area, that program dissolved in 2013. Seeing the need to continue with some sort of similar initiative, USD 458 continues to follow the Gold Star initiative within the Kansas Mentors program, which was developed to provide a safe and effective mentoring environment for students throughout Kansas.

“Mentors read together, help with homework, get organized, share lunch and even set up LEGO creations or play with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) kits,” said Tammy Potts, director of Basehor-Linwood Mentors and CareCats. “They can share career and job shadow advice along with answering questions about college, scholarships and community involvement. It’s a delightful time to get to know each other.”

Residents from around the community donate their time to spend time with students. Retirees are especially valuable. While they may feel they don’t have any relevant experience since they are no longer in the workforce, their life experience provides a wealth of wisdom.

Some mentors, such as Basehor 2017 Citizen of the Year Howie Lucas, is a mentor to a handful of students on a weekly basis. He also attends school events of those students to support them.  

BLHS juniors and seniors serve as mentors as part of the CareCats program and are matched with younger students who have similar interests in things such as music or art, or who may have an affinity to help younger students in subjects such as math or science.

Each year, the district sponsors a Celebrate Mentors! children’s poster contest. The contest serves as a recruitment and recognition tool to help all students understand their mentor roles and the many activities that the CareCat mentors do to make a difference with students within the schools. Posters are displayed both at the USD 458 offices as well as throughout the district and state.

While the current number of mentors and CareCats is impressive, there is still a need for additional volunteers. There is currently a waiting list for students requesting a mentor. A background check, interviews and orientation are part of the application process. For more information, contact Potts at tpotts@usd458.org

“If you have a giving nature, we will find a happy placement that works for you. We are a growing school district with an amazing Careers, Training and Experience campus addition to our campus. Currently in high demand are mentors who are comfortable with math tutoring of all ages and grade levels,” said Potts.

Beth Kornegay is a freelance writer covering news and events in the city of Basehor. If you have a story idea, email her at gabi_kansas@yahoo.com