Mentoring group making a difference at high school
November 1, 2010
PLAINVIEW – While Dr. Rick Shaw’s heart lies in mission work, he is making sure students at Wayland Baptist University understand that such work does not just happen overseas.
One program in particular is enjoying great success as it reaches out to students at Plainview High School, pairing WBU students in a one-on-one mentoring relationship for positive change.
Apostolos was born in 2008 from a student body request and out of one of the goals of the Wayland Mission Center, which is to meet community needs. Shaw, who is assistant professor of religion and missions and Mission Center director, became its sponsor. Since then, the program has grown in student involvement and commitment and has seen positive results locally.
“According to the high school administrators, we saw at the end of last year that the students we worked with saw a dramatic increase in GPA overall,” Shaw said. “Our goal, first and foremost, was to keep them in school. All are in school again this year, and they’ve had less involvement with the law and with gangs as well, and reduced teen pregnancy. Those are factors the school district is considering heavily.”
The mentoring sessions are held weekly after PHS lets out and sometimes involve the Wayland students going to the high school to visit with their students or bringing them to the WBU Laney Center for games or activities. The focus is on fellowship and relationship-building, with refreshments often thrown in.
Shaw said 52 Wayland students are involved in Apostolos and he has seen an increased commitment on their part this year. Of that group, 87 percent have never missed a session, and the group is becoming increasingly more ethnically diverse. More importantly, they are gaining a unique experience.
“This does assist our students in developing an expanded world view in terms of engaging people in a different socioeconomic class, ethnicity or life experiences,” he said. “We had a few difficult times last year, and in each case those students contacted their mentors first for help.”
Shaw said several WBU students who have graduated were motivated to enter the social work field due in great part to their experience with Apostolos. Jennifer Phillips, who helped start the group and led it her senior year, is doing a master’s degree at the University of Arkansas in social work.
The mentoring has also evolved somewhat over the years. While the group originally focused on PHS freshmen, they found the students wanting to remain involved in the program as they moved up to their sophomore and then junior years, so they opted to allow that. Mentors only work with one student at a time, and they are required to go through a training and orientation program with social work professor Debra Lavender-Bratcher to prepare for issues they may face with their students.
“Our students are feeling more free to share (the faith) part of their lives as a source of strength and consolation as well,” Shaw noted.