The Mustang Mentor Program at Woodlands Middle School has been honored with a Community Involvement Award from the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE).
The award “recognizes exemplary school practices that focus on increasing family involvement, welcoming families into the local school system, providing effective communication, supporting student success, and promoting collaboration with the community,” according to FLDOE. The programs are recognized not only for their success but also for their ability to be replicated by other schools.
The mission of the school’s Mustang Mentor program is to support the academic, social, and behavioral success of students by providing one-on-one positive interaction with a Woodlands Middle staff member to create a caring, family-like environment.
“We are so proud that our program, which was initially developed to foster our own students’ success, is being recognized and shared with other school districts as a model that they can use in their own schools to help other students,” said Enrique Vela, principal of Woodlands Middle School.
The program operates during normal school hours throughout the school year. Mentors are volunteers, faculty, and staff. Students are recommended for the program, a mentor is strategically matched with a student, or a mentor can choose a student to mentor. Some mentors have multiple mentees and are encouraged to establish confidentiality and trust with their mentee(s).
Most mentoring sessions are at least once per week before or after school. Sessions are 30 – 45 minutes depending on mentor and mentee schedules. Mentees are responsible for following the school’s Code of Conduct which encourages P.R.I.D.E. (Positive attitude, Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Excellence).
Students in the program have developed positive attitudes towards school, a higher level of self-confidence, and trust in their teachers. They have also demonstrated a greater level of respect for authority and feel a sense of inclusion, instead of being known as the troublemaker or outsider.
Thanks to support from the school’s business partners and volunteers, student mentees and mentors receive tokens of acknowledgment in the form of incentive and achievement rewards donated by business partners. Once per quarter, families of participants are invited to the school to celebrate the success of the students and their mentors.
The Mustang Mentor program has proven to be successful and impactful. Not only have the mentors and mentees been touched by its success, it has also had a trickle-down effect on other students. The attitude on campus is changing, and students now consider their school to be an inviting place with more empathy and less bullying.
The Mustang Mentors Program, one of only eight programs to be honored, will be formally recognized and invited to share their award-winning programs at the Educational Strategies and Student Engagement Institute in November.