MENTOR BASH

FOR NEWS - Javon Stewart, 11, a student at Garcia Elementary School, does a flip off of a diving board during TISD's mentor program end-of-year bash at Lions Junction Water Park in Temple on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

Temple students and their mentors said goodbye to the school year Thursday with a pool party at Lion’s Junction Water Park.

Temple Independent School District’s Wildcat Mentor program recruits community members to spend time with at-risk students. Volunteers are assigned a student for one school year and are expected to visit with that student at least twice a month.

The program holds three events for all participants every year. On Thursday, fifth- and sixth-graders from across the district were bused to the water park to play with friends and hang out with their mentors one more time before summer.

Children’s minister Scott Seela said he has volunteered with the program since its inception.

“I’ve lost track of the years,” Seela said. “I’ve had a lot of different kids over the years and they all have a different life … but they’re kids in general and they just need someone to listen to them.”

This year, Seela is mentoring a fifth-grader who he hopes to continue meeting with in sixth grade. He has been able to keep in touch with one of his past charges who is now a sophomore in high school, but most other students he has worked with have moved out of the district.

Beverly Luedke is finishing up her first year as a mentor.

“This is my first year, and it’s been a fun one,” Luedke said. “I’ve certainly gotten more out of it than I thought I would. Touching kids’ lives is what we all need to be doing — we all know that. And this just gave me another opportunity to get in touch with these kiddos.”

Luedke said her time volunteering with the mentor program has helped her to better appreciate the teachers and administrators in the school system. She has enjoyed getting to know the fifth-grader assigned to her.

“We talk about boys, and how we don’t like boys at this point — which is a good thing,” Luedke said. “She’s in the fifth grade, and that’s such an impressionable age.”

Mentors meet with their charges on campus during school hours.

“We’ve played a lot of games,” Luedke said. “That’s one thing that she really wanted to do was play different games that are available in the school.”

Fifth-grader Evaling Salazar said she has enjoyed being a part of the mentor program, and will miss her mentor over the summer.

“I’ll miss everything about her,” she said. “I love my mentor.”

Evaling attends Raye-Allen Elementary School. She is excited about going to middle school next year, but also nervous.

“I’m going to get lost the first day,” she said.

Evaling said her mentor has taught her “to be confident in yourself and don’t really change no matter what.”

Applications to volunteer with the Wildcat Mentor program can be found on the school district website, www.tisd.org. Questions can be directed to coordinator Nichole Riley at nichole.riley@tisd.org or (254-215-6942).