Moore Buddies Mentoring is an invaluable community resource for at-risk youth offered by The CARE Group. The CARE Group was formed to connect the people of Moore County, in Southern Pines, North Carolina, to important educational resources. The specific focus of Moore Buddies Mentoring is to help at-risk youth succeed by offering them support and encouragement through mentorship.
Run on volunteer steam, our latest small grant recipient is always looking for more such volunteers, so that more disenfranchised youth can succeed in the classroom and go on to live fuller, more productive lives. Mentoring, in short, offers hope to children who might not otherwise finish school let alone go to college. Moore Buddies Mentoring was born out of an understanding that the future lies in ensuring that today’s youth thrive for a better tomorrow.
We put some questions to executive director of The CARE Group, Inc. and Moore Buddies Mentoring Joyce Clevenger, to learn more about this work:
Kars4Kids: What is the demographic of the students you work with? What are their backgrounds? What are their ages?
Joyce Clevenger: We work with kids ages 6-18. They live in poverty and are dealing with trauma and its effects and are largely failing school and will drop out if we do not intervene. Many of them do not have a parent in the home and live with other relatives. They act out their trauma through their behavior in school, getting into fights, bullying others, and being aggressive. They are often sad and depressed and do not readily trust adults, so it takes time to earn their respect and trust.
Kars4Kids: How many students do you serve in a typical year? Are mentors assigned to a single student or are they working with groups of students? Do your mentors undergo some sort training?
Joyce Clevenger: We have about 100 kids in the various programs. We have about half of those with a one-on-one mentor, who must have 6 hours of training prior to beginning the mentoring program. After that are monthly trainings for them. We also have group mentoring in many of our schools and tutors that go to various schools as well. We have after school programming for our kids to have a safe place to go after school; have something to eat; get help with their homework; have a music or art lesson; or perhaps just play a game of checkers or shoot some hoops with their mentor.
Kars4Kids: Can you tell us about your Community Mentoring program?
Joyce Clevenger: Our community mentoring program pairs a positive, caring, well-trained mentor with a child at risk of failing or dropping out of school. They spend time together each week, and each mentor must commit to a minimum of one-year with their mentee. They work to set goals, work on school performance, and build self-confidence in each student. It’s all about the relationship.
Kars4Kids: What about In-School Mentoring? How does that work?
Joyce Clevenger: The mentors in this program go to schools to meet with their mentee each week. They can help them with their schoolwork, or just spend quality time with their mentee. We focus on the mentoring relationship and encourage and guide each student we work with to do better in school and to make good choices in life.
Kars4Kids: Are your mentoring programs purely for the sake of helping the child with schoolwork, or is there a broader purpose to these programs?
Joyce Clevenger: Our focus is on helping a child heal from trauma and build resilience, confidence, and self-esteem. That is why we offer enrichment opportunities for our kids that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy, like music, art, journaling, and more. And that is why it is all about one mentor working with one mentee. When a child feels loved and supported, their self-esteem and the desire to do better, rises. Doing better in school is often the byproduct of having a mentor—and though we do offer homework help and tutoring, it’s not the focus of our program—doing better in school is often a byproduct of having a mentor, even without academic assistance.
Kars4Kids: What are the tangible results of your program? Can you speak to the impact Moore Buddies Mentoring is having on the students you work with?
Joyce Clevenger: I just got an email from a young lady who is finishing her master’s degree and getting married. She came through our program years ago and is doing incredibly well. One young man who was failing and not attending school (9th grade) just brought his grades up enough to play on the football team and he is over the moon about that. He has two tutors and a mentor and has turned his life around. He just needed a little love and support. He also just got a job at McDonalds and has a girlfriend! We don’t have instant success with these kids. It takes time, but over time, it makes a huge difference. Being loved and encouraged by a caring adult is sometimes all a child needs to do better.
Kars4Kids: Moore Buddies Mentoring also has a program for suspended or expelled children. What can you tell us about this program?
Joyce Clevenger: Instead of being sent home for suspension, a child can be referred to us and we spend the day with them working on their schoolwork, feeding them and helping them with skill-building and working on prosocial skills. It beats sleeping until noon and getting further behind in their schoolwork!
Kars4Kids: The Moore Buddies Mentoring website says you champion successful youth through mentoring and empowering families. How are you empowering families?
Joyce Clevenger: Our focus is the children, but our parents are involved in the process and we keep a close relationship with them. We often help them with physical needs they have, transportation, and just educating them on the needs of their child. Once they see that we are there to help, they trust us and work with us to help their child. We just had a mother who went back to school to get her degree after seeing the improvement and great changes that her son made. He was failing and is now graduating from high school.
Kars4Kids: Can you tell us a success story about one of the student participants in your program?
Joyce Clevenger: I just had a mentor stop by my office this morning to tell me, through tears, how their (she and her husband mentor together) mentee is going to be a senior in high school next year and already asked them to come on senior night for the basketball team as his grandparents. He is African American and they are white and have been his mentors since he was 11.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for Moore Buddies Mentoring?
Joyce Clevenger: Unfortunately there are always more kids than there are available mentors. More trauma, poverty, and need result in more at-risk children. Our commitment is to stay true to our calling and that is to care for those kids who might otherwise fall through the cracks and drop out of school and end up going to prison. 76% of all adults incarcerated are high-school dropouts and we are committed to working with one child at a time to help them change their life. I tell our mentors—don’t go into this with the idea that you are going to change the kid. Go into it with the idea that you are going to love this kid. A caring adult who loves a child can change the entire trajectory of that child’s life.