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Recognizing the Mentors of Tomorrow’s Leaders

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The Hernando County School Board held one of its regular meetings on Tuesday, April 23, and the board’s first order of business after adopting the agenda was to announce a pair of recognitions. The first of these agenda items dealt with during the meeting was focused on recognizing students from Hernando ME, or Mentors of Education.

According to Sonsee Sanders, Director of Research & Accountability for the school district, research shows that having a mentor has positive effects on individuals that include increased attendance, higher test scores, better grades, and belief in themselves. This could be especially pertinent for children growing up in single-parent homes who lack father figures. A 2013 NIH study shows that children in such households tend to struggle in these areas as opposed to their two-parent counterparts.

“It has been a tremendous blessing to work with these highly educated, kind-hearted, creative, supportive, passionate mentors who have wanted nothing more than to see our students in Hernando County succeed,” said Michelle Barnes of Hernando Mentors of Education. “They have motivated and inspired hundreds of students over the first three years through one-on-one, small group, and whole group mentorship and empowerment sessions.”

Hernando Mentors of Education began at Eastside Elementary three years ago and was introduced by Board Member Susan Duval. In the meantime, the mentorship program has increased in numbers to include Spring Hill Elementary, Parrott Middle, Fox Chapel Middle, and Endeavor Academy. The pair of Barnes and Dean Kincaid went around every school in the county ten times to discuss the advantages of dual enrollment for all the children between ninth and eleventh grades.

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The PERT (Postsecondary Education Readiness Test) is a relatively new method of examination, but its requirements are still significantly effort-intensive. Barnes and company have helped to double the number of students that have taken the PERT in tenth grade this year alone. Over 1000 students are going to have the opportunity to take college classes for free while they are in high school and fortunately for students and academic leaders, she has even more ideas brewing.

“When I talked to Michelle about this project a few years back, it was just a little kernel of an idea and she turned it in, ladies and gentleman, to the field of dreams. Our kids came, our kids have succeeded, our kids now have hope where they did not necessarily have hope to begin with. They believe they can do these things now due to these incredible people. They have done such an amazing job for all of our students, and I am just incredibly grateful.”

As part of the recognition ceremony, a large group of mentors and mentees stood for a group picture with plaques sponsored by Joni Industries.

PHSC President Emeritus Dr. Timothy Beard was honored alongside other community mentors on Tuesday and the board allowed him to come up afterward to speak further on the matter. He notes how compassionate conservatism is real and he believes in “investing in education on the front end versus incarceration on the back end.”

An extremely salient point, as achieving this goal allows for fewer people in jail and more contributing, happy members of society.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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