Mentoring At Risk Kids for Success

by Bargany C. Jones, Program Coordinator, Camden-Fairview School District Student Mentoring Program, Camden, Arkansas, USA


Negative Factors Impacting Students

Our students face student conflicts, gang influences, a decline in academic expectations, breakdown in family relationships, a lack of motivation, and insubordination against authority. In addition there is the stress and pressure associated with their every day school life.  For an at-risk student, the results of these factors can be devastating. However, for those students in the Camden Fairview School District, there is a program designed to meet the needs of their and to help them each to reach success. That program is the C-F SD Student Mentoring Program.

The Mentoring Program serves as a significant unit of the district’s policy to promote improvement of academic success. It also targets the successful completion of the school curriculum through mentoring activities which support and encourage academic excellence, self-esteem, and personal growth of participating students.

Program Overview

The Camden Fairview Public School Mentoring Program started with the need to bridge
the academic achievement gap between African American and Caucasian students. The
school wanted a program that would be a source of encouragement and support for all
at-risk students. The district especially wanted to focus on the African American students who were failing academically at a much higher rate.

The Mentoring program started as a pilot program supporting forty African American
students who were failing. Our goal was to raise their grades 20% by the end of the school year. We chose the rate 20% because we felt it was a reasonable and attainable goal. By the end of that first year our enrollment had reached eighty five (85) students and by the end of the year the improvement was an overwhelming 52%. The key element in this vast improvement in scores was attributed to the student’s attitude.

The success of the program was achieved because we centered on three areas:

  1. The Right People
  2. The Right Program
  3. Love For Students.

The Mentoring Program is composed of an eleven staff persons – a coordinator and ten (10) mentors.

COORDINATOR – The Coordinator is responsible for conducting all training sessions and coordinating activities for the district’s program.

MENTORS – There are two mentors (one male and one female) in each of the five school buildings.

STUDENTS – The student body for the district is approximately 3,023. The Mentoring Program has approximately 400 students enrolled in the program however, we will work with any student that is “at-risk. “


The goal is to provide a safe and secure place and the support needed so that all students can have an opportunity to learn and develop the skills necessary to be a productive student and adult citizen.


One critical area in developing and maintaining the Mentoring Program is in the selection of qualified mentors. In any organization people are the greatest resource in reaching a goal or they can also be our greatest hindrance. Our students need good role models, supervision, guidance, and coaches that can demonstrate and challenge students within the framework of a good and wholesome relationship of mutual trust and respect.

Our mentors are selected based on their ability to successfully work in a group setting
as well as on an individual (one-on-one) basis.

Candidates for the Mentoring Program are recommended by teachers and the counselors,
however, the building principals make the final selections. All selected mentees are enrolled based upon a mutual approval of the mentor, anf the selected student. The match is based on the students desire to work with the mentor for the success of the student. An agreement is signed by the parent, promising to abide by the guidelines of the Mentoring Program.


Our mentors are role models that guide and motivate students to achieve success and completion of the school curriculum. Mentors share their knowledge and experience in life to aid the students in avoiding pitfalls common to many young people.

In addition to meeting with their students, some of the mentor duties include:

  • classroom visits for observations
  • monitoring lunchrooms, hallways, and rest rooms
  • before school and afternoon bus monitoring.

The purpose of these duties is to put the mentors in a position where they can defuse any potential problem or acts of violence and guide their mentees into positive behaviors.

Areas of focus in mentoring to the next generation:

  • 1. Student Conflict
    • Situational
    • Relational
    • Predatory
  • 2. Overcoming Gang influence by Meeting the Needs of Youth
    • Belonging – seeking the acceptance, attention and affection of others.
    • Mastery – the need to be good at something.
    • Independence – the need to gain control of one’s destiny rather than being at the mercy of others.
    • Generosity – the need to be needed in the life of others.
  • 3. Decline in Academic Achievements Result From
    • Attitude (themselves, life, others)
    • Desire
    • Ability
    • Belief
    • Individual
  • 4. Maintaining Good Communication Depends on:
    • Communication Effectiveness (self, home, one another)
    • Background (life, learning, love)
    • Trust
    • Accountability (truth, right and wrong)
  • 5. Motivation Depends on:
    • “The Me Within” – discovering your potential.
    • Awareness – becoming your own best friend.
    • “Expect and Inspect” – Recovering, and establishing roads and wing.
    • Role Model – proper lifestyle roles.
    • Taking time for yourself (relax, meditation).
  • 6. Insubordination Toward Authority Results From:
    • Peer pressure (activated by deviant peers)
    • Poor parental management (home training)
    • Poor coping and problem solving skills
    • The lack of social or interpersonal skills
    • Lack of support at home and at school
    • Lack of respect.

Strategies for Effective Mentoring

We have found that strategies for effective mentoring include:

  • Modeling Positive Attitude
  • Creative Problem Solving
  • Confidence Building
  • Valuing Persons & Building a Sense of the Student’s Self-Worth
  • Strengthened the Student’s Self-Awareness and Empathy for Others
  • Discovery of the Student’s Own Gifts
  • Modeling and Expecting Open-mindedness
  • Effective communications
  • Demonstrating Risk-Taking for the Sake of Learning & Improvement

There are three (3) things needed to be a successful Mentor are

  1. You must have a heart for what you are doing.
  2. You must have a burning desire for what you are doing.
  3. You must believe in yourself.


  • Engaging students in ongoing exploratory activities to discover, develop, and pursue his/her dreams and aspirations. 
  • Helping students to develop a dream portfolio. This helps them to visualize what they want to achieve in life and how they might do it.
  • Engaging students into practical, meaningful and relevant discussion, debates, and analysisof real issues, challenges, and decisions, which will confront them as they pursue their dreams and aspirations.
  • Providing opportunities for students to actualize their dreams, and learning how to recognize dream killers.
  • Looking at life conflicts as opportunities for learning from every situation.
  • Modeling successful language, expectation, and standards for life.
  • Understanding that life is a series of ups and downs, and learning how to use experiences as stepping stones.
  • Learning how to receive and give love.
  • Listening and learning from what you hear.


  1. Get in on what’s going on today 
    1. Learn how they think
    2. Find out their beliefs
    3. Discover and DO what they love to do
  2. Get in on the wave of young people. What does it take to reach them?
  3. Stop what you’re doing if it’s not working.
  4. Don’t blame yourself when problems occur. (It’s not about you).
  5. Don’t totally blame the child (look beyond the present situation; look at his
  6. Never resort to labeling kids (never use the words stupid, lazy, crazy, etc.).
  7. Show compassion and concern.
  8. Never tell a child, “It’s no big deal.” It IS to them!
  9. Help the child to find the reason or cause of the problem.
  10. Never give up on a child.

Winning the War from the Inside Out – Eleven Personal Declarations:

  1. I refuse to allow my past to control my future.
  2. I refuse to die within, when I can live.
  3. I refuse to be the way that I am, when I can be something better.
  4. I refuse to allow money to make me into something that I’m not.
  5. I refuse to allow what someone else has done to me, to cause me to do evil to others.
  6. I refuse to be called dysfunctional, when God created me to be fully functional.
  7. I refuse to stay discouraged any longer, when I can have peace and joy.
  8. I refuse to remain bound, when I am created to be free.
  9. I refuse to stay at the bottom, when I belong at the top.
  10. I refuse to speak words of defeat, when I can speak words of freedom.
  11. I refuse to lose, when I know that I can win.