AUSTIN (KXAN) — They can be two of the most valuable gifts someone can give a child — time and attention.
Austin Partners in Education teams up with the Austin Independent School District to provide volunteer mentors who eat lunch and talk one-on-one with their student each week.
The deadline to volunteer this school year is Sunday, Feb. 5, and APIE says some campuses are in desperate need of mentors.
Deborah Webster, 60, started mentoring students at Kealing Middle School eight years ago.
“It is such a reward,” said Webster. “To me when our children see someone that looks like them actually caring, taking the time out to come out, sit, talk, take some time with them I think that’s a plus.”
For the last three years, Webster has been meeting with Quran Gant, 13.
“My parents, they push me to be the best I can be so I know I wouldn’t be slacking or anything like that, but with Ms. Deborah here it’s like an extra hand helping me and moving me forward,” said Gant.
Even though the two are 47 years apart, they’ve grown closer every week.
“I can remember that first day she was [answering] ‘yes, no, maybe,’ and now I think she can out-talk me on some days,” said Webster with a laugh.
Gant says when she was in sixth grade her friend had a mentor, and she really wanted someone to talk to as well. That’s when she went to her counselor and asked to be paired up with one.
“As time went by I started opening up more, I started telling more things and it’s just been great times from the beginning to now,” said Gant.
Research shows youth who participate in mentoring relationships have better attendance, better attitudes about school and an increased likelihood of going on to higher education.
Students are also less likely to initiate alcohol and drug use while being mentored, and are less likely to engage in certain negative behaviors.
Prior to being paired up with a student, volunteer mentors are required to pass a background check, and participate in a short online and in-person training course.