COMPASS Project Continues to Connect Students With Caring Mentors
An onslaught of students rushes down the hallway of Southern Middle School in Aberdeen when the first bell rings at 7:40 a.m.
While some students are busy catching up with friends, others are looking toward COMPASS Project staff members standing in the hallway, anxiously awaiting a pass letting them know their mentors will be visiting that day.
The COMPASS Project is a collaborative partnership between Communities In Schools of Moore County and Moore County Schools.
The purpose of the project is to provide students at Southern Middle School an opportunity to acquire successful academic and life-skills habits through the development of a mentoring relationship with a caring adult.
The program began in the 2007-2008 school year with 30 students under the leadership of Dr. Robin Moore. While working as the educational director at Central Prison in Raleigh, Moore read "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," written by Steven Covey.
Five years later, as the educational director at the N.C Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh, Moore began to include the seven habits as part of the cosmetology curriculum.
"I began to think of ways to utilize the concepts in an educational setting. I loaned the book to several inmates, but the book failed to generate much interest," says Moore.
But Moore did not give up. In 2007, he was asked to write a mentoring grant for Moore County Schools, which would later become the COMPASS Project.
He recommended Southern Middle School as the home for his program. The grant required that COMPASS students show improvement in their GPAs and a reduction in school absences. According to Moore, with the help of the seven habits, results showed significant improvement.
The program, currently under the leadership of Alicia Gatling, continues to rely on the seven habits, specifically Sean Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens," a book that focuses on the characteristics that happy, successful teens share, and promotes self-image, maintaining friendships, resisting peer pressure, making good choices, and building better relationships with parents.
Today, there are 92 students in the project. Its mission is to help kids be successful in school and ultimately become responsible for their own futures. In addition to meeting once a week with mentors, CIS students attend field trips and participate in community service projects.
Mentoring programs, such as the COMPASS Project, are helping youth stay in school. In recent years, these mentoring programs have expanded their volunteer base, and the numbers continue to rise.
Mentors derive many benefits from mentoring, including a sense of pride that comes from being admired and helpful, as well as insights into their own lives and the lives of youth.
William Ray, who grew up in Aberdeen, decided to go back to school after more than 16 years of working at W.C. Richards, an industrial paint company. He attends Sandhills Community College and will get his associate's degree in early childhood education in December. He hopes to tutor children at his church and make better futures for them.
"I believe it's my calling," says Ray, who also mentors three boys at Southern Middle School and is even willing to take on a fourth or fifth. "I was 18 years old when I realized I had a connection to kids."
Ray, who lived with his mother in a poor neighborhood while growing up, is the oldest of three brothers. Having no consistent contact with his father throughout his young life, Ray felt he needed to be a father figure to his brothers.
He admits, "I had no idea what I was doing, but I know that a lack of a father affected me and my brothers very much." It's one of the reasons Ray has committed to volunteering with children.
Growing up, Ray saw many of the kids in his neighborhood end up in jail or get killed. As he got older, Ray realized these kids could have been saved.
"I haven't met a child yet who can't be saved," he says. "I tell my mentees that nothing beats a failure but a try."
Ray is truly proud of his mentees at Southern Middle School.
"I have seen changes in these boys," he says. "I will never be their father, but I will be there for them if they need a father figure in their lives."
In school-based mentoring programs like the COMPASS Project, mentors and mentees meet at school for one hour each week during school hours. This type of arrangement allows mentoring programs to reach a broad range of youths who may not otherwise be accessible and possibly improves youths' experiences in and outlook on school.
While the investment of one hour each week during the school year is significant, the benefit of making a difference in the life of a child is priceless.
"Join Gatling and her staff in the hallways of Southern Middle School," says a spokesman. "Say 'yes' to this wonderful opportunity to provide direction to our youth."
To begin the process, contact Gatling at (910) 528-0983 or email her at email@example.com.
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