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Back to School 2021: Community-Based Mentoring Program seeking volunteers

July 19, 2021

     Gwinnett County Public Schools’ (GCPS) Community-Based Mentoring Program is seeking 300 volunteers to mentor students during the 2021-22 school year.Collage of Mentoring photos

     Now in its 12th year, the mentoring program provides guidance and support for boys in grades 4-12 and girls in 6th and 7th grade. James Rayford, director of Academic Support, has collaborated with business and community leaders for 11 years, seeking human and financial resources to sustain the program for nearly 500 boys. Nury Crawford, director of Academic Support, launched the program’s focus and outreach on Hispanic/Latino students in 2019. Since then, the number of mentees has grown more than twofold. Nicole Tomlinson, director of Academic Support, joined the team in January 2021, leading efforts to extend support to nearly 250 African-American girls. Although Rayford, Crawford, and Tomlinson lead different aspects of the mentoring program, they share the same mission.

     “Our focus and goal is the same as a group,” Rayford said. “We are committed to helping our young men and women by providing them the support and leadership they need. Mentors play a critical role in the lives of many of our students and we have seen mentors help change the trajectory of a child’s life.”

     The 2020-21 school year required flexibility as the pandemic forced the program to change, make adjustments and be creative in how it served students and their families. Mentoring was provided via Zoom, FaceTime, phone calls, text, and other forms of electronic communication. Despite these challenges, the program thrived. “The heroes of our program are the community members who answered the call to be a volunteer mentor,” Crawford said. “More than 900 commendable men and women gave our student mentees something priceless, their time.”

     Still Rayford, Crawford, and Tomlinson recognize, there is more work to be done. “We need more mentors,” Tomlinson said. “We expect more students will need additional support as some of them will re-enter the school building for the first time in over a year.” Rayford adds, “Our goal is to invest in more students to ensure all who need support receive it in the form of an adult mentor. Someone who encourages them to be the best student academically, socially, and behaviorally in order to become a productive adult. In addition, we’d like to expand the program to include 900 boys in all GCPS schools, as well as 300 girls from 13 additional schools.”

     The GCPS Community-Based Mentoring Program remains committed to working with parents to ensure their children have access to college and career readiness information as the program is expanding its career readiness workshops in the high schools.

     For more information about the Community-Based Mentoring Program, call (770) 682-8086.