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News & Events
It’s the end of October at Chatham Middle School and Jy’Mir is busy working on a project with his 8th grade AVID classmates. Looking back, it was a busy summer full of new experiences and exciting challenges, and finding his groove at school provides him the opportunity to share his new perspectives on travel and life with his peers.
Over the summer, Jy’Mir was busy building up his social capital by participating in number of activities with the support of CIS Chatham. From bicycle tours with Bikes and Barnyards and Carrboro’s Spoken Revolutions – Jy’Mir rode his bike 400+ miles including pit stops in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (his favorite spot because of his experience meeting ‘awesome people with some genuine southern hospitality’) – all the way to St. Louis. He also attended the Betsy Jeff Penn 4H summer camp for the third time at the end of July, in addition to fulfilling his duties as the treasurer for the youth chapter of the West Chatham NAACP. And if that wasn’t enough, he and his mentor Daryl F. spent hours hanging out together including getting their hair cut at a local Siler City barbershop. All of these experiences have made Quisha Fuller, Jy’Mir’s mother, proud and thankful – “Thank you (CISCC) for everything you do – I really am grateful and he is too.”
Jy’Mir accomplished a lot this summer and kept a busy schedule, but according to him, he wouldn’t have it any other way. He has made us all proud and thankful too. We are grateful to continue surrounding him with support, enabling him to succeed in school and in life!
Garry Sronce and his mentee, Shymein move around a lot! Just check out the ol’ log book. 47 miles hiking and an impressive 83 miles biking various trails. That’s 130 miles in 4 years.
83 miles is tough on one’s bike. Recently Garry and Shyein visited The ReCYCLEry NC in Carrboro. Dave, a ReCYCLEry volunteer, and Shymein looked over dozens of bikes until Shymein found “the one” that would replace his old 1 speed green bike. The new one would be a shiny silver, 21 speed.
In one afternoon, Shymein became a bike mechanic. He and Dave replaced brake cables, fixed the derailer, replaced the handle grips, seat and tire tube. They even trued up a tire rim that was not perfectly round. Next, they checked the gears to make sure they were working, then cleaned it up. And just like that, Shymein was the proud owner of a new bike.
When asked if this was the highlight of the match, Garry said “I learned a lot. I totally enjoyed our Saturday outing. Now Shymein thinks he is an expert bike mechanic.” Garry reflected on the many activities he and Shymein participated in. “My greatest moment of joy with Shymein was when he said that he never knew how to skip rocks until he met me. It brought back so many fond memories of raising my two sons.”
The ReCYCLEry NC is a non-profit located in Carrboro, North Carolina that teaches bicycle repair and maintenance and allows community members to earn their own bikes.
Shirille Lee, the Student Support Specialist for Youth FIRST for Chatham Communities In Schools, joined the CIS team as a staff member in 1998. But long before that, she was a volunteer mentor and board member. Her full-time service to CIS has included being the Governor’s One-on-One mentoring coordinator and Volunteer and Youth Services coordinator. She brings infectious enthusiasm the job and says she is guided each day by a favorite quote: “To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.”
In 2018, Lee initiated a new program at CIS, “Mentoring Plus,” where she began working more directly with schools to provide mentoring, lunch buddies and other kinds of supports for students. It’s funded by the United Way of Chatham County, Chatham County government and generous individual sponsors.
With Youth FIRST (Finding Integrated Resources & Supports Together), Lee coordinates individual, case-managed intervention services to reach referred students in Chatham County. In the past year she served 68 youth across 11 schools, with a concentration of services at three schools: Pittsboro Elementary School, Horton Middle School and Siler City Elementary. Lee works with each student to complete a needs assessment and a student support plan identifying an attendance, behavior or coursework goal. The students have monthly check-ins, and parents are encouraged to be more engaged with their child’s teacher and school. This week, the News + Record spoke with Lee about her role and the mentoring program.
What drew you to this work?
I believe we all have gifts. At one time I was at a crossroad in my life and thought I wanted to do something different, explore another gift (I had been youth leader at my church for over a decade). I didn’t really know what I was looking for but when I read an article in The Chatham News about mentoring, I signed up before I knew what I was doing. I later followed up that decision with signing up to be a foster parent for Chatham County Department of Social Services. I thought I was on a different path, but it lead me right back to working with children, just in a different capacity.
Working for CIS is the dream job!!! It’s like having your cake and eating it too!
How would you describe what mentoring is to someone who may not know what it is?
Mentoring is all about opportunity and exposure.
As a mentor you have the opportunity to expose youth to positive things in their community, include them in things they may not get a chance to explore for many reasons. It’s hard to prepare a meal or read a book together for a single parent who works 12-16 hours a day or go to the planetarium or the zoo when you’re struggling to make ends meet. A mentor can step in and provide those experiences. Surprisingly some of the favorite activities for mentees were grocery shopping, cooking a meal and sitting down together to eat that meal, working in the garden or flower bed, enjoying the peace and quiet.
It’s not about money and the things a mentor could buy, but the time spent together. Mentoring is about sharing your story. Sometimes we (adults and youth) just focus on the end results and never share what it took to reach the goal. Our youth need to hear the story and know that they can persevere and achieve.
Certainly, mentoring is about giving, but it’s also about receiving. It’s an amazing feeling to know that you are making/have made a difference in a person’s life. You learn so much from your mentee about resilience and endurance. You also learn a lot about yourself and a sense of gratitude for the informal mentors that influence you.
How does mentoring benefit a young person?
Mentoring provides additional support for a youth. Whether academic, recreational or emotional support, a mentor can be there to help meet the need. Mentoring gives a young person the opportunity to experience new things that could have life changing effects. A trip to the ballet or museum to expose a creative, artistic side or helping in a garden and cooking a meal together, exposing an interest in culinary arts. The possibilities are endless.
How do you find volunteers, what is the process for an applicant, what kind of training and supervision is offered?
Finding volunteers can be challenging. We make posts, write articles, do presentations at churches and civic meetings/events, post flyers and information in neighborhood newsletters/e-letters, but it’s mostly word of mouth from current and former mentors.
How do parents feel about their child having a mentor? How do you work with parents of mentees?
This program is voluntary, so parents make the decision to allow their child to participate. Most parents recognize the possibilities of what mentoring can offer. I work with parents to make sure all their questions are answers. Allowing a stranger to leave with your child can be difficult, so just helping parents to process those feelings. When needs are identified, helping parents find resources and encouraging parents to build a relationship with the schools if one is not established are just a few of the things when working with parents.
How do you decide which kids get mentors since there is a limited number of volunteers available?
The decision can be difficult, but we look at location. We try to match within a 10-12 mile radius, we look at interest — mentor and youth, parent support — whether parent is really supportive of match, whether youth is open to the match and possibly trying new things. We look at goals — what the youth, parent and mentor hope to accomplish to see if it’s compatible. We look at temperament as well as energy levels for compatibility.
What does mentoring look like? What does it consist of?
Minimum requirement of four hours per month for one year. Don’t try to create time for mentoring, but include mentee in things you are already doing — gardening, cooking, hiking/walking, grocery shopping. Other activities are fun too, but it’s about the time spent together.
If you’re interested in hearing more about volunteer opportunities, contact Shirille at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet Ramon Vicente, an eighth-grader at Chatham Middle School (CMS). Ramon is an active student and community member. Through his involvement with various Communities In Schools programs and his local church, the people who know him best have noticed a drastic improvement in his academics and behaviors.
Ramon has always demonstrated respect, curiosity, and an appreciation for helping. Currently, Ramon serves as the Vice President of the Youth National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), volunteers with and advocates for the Teen Court program, and participates in weekly socio-emotional learning groups, among others! It has been a pleasure seeing Ramon grow over the years and the family at CIS is eager to support Ramon achieving in school and beyond.