Schools searching for mentors

Local News

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Urbana and Champaign’s school districts are searching for mentors for kids in 3rd thru 7th grades. 

The program currently has 625 mentors. Leaders said they hope to reach 700 by the end of the school year. Mentors will be matched one-on-one with students for a year. The program consists of hour-long sessions on school grounds once a week. 

Mentors said they’re determined to help kids succeed.

“I think that’s the biggest thing for me,” Desa Petchareun said. “it’s empowering our youth to do whatever it is that they were sent here to do.”

Petchareun said he’s watched his mentee grow up and build confidence.

“The more I can see his leadership start to flourish, the more I know I’m doing the right things,” Petchareun said.

Derek Pruitt, another mentor, is a father to two girls. He said his role as a mentor allows him to help in a way that a parent or teacher can’t.

“He sees me, knows I’m a grown-up, but he also doesn’t see me as his father or anything like that,” Pruitt said. “I’m right in that middle-ground. It means a lot to me. A lot.”

It’s a role he takes seriously.

“As a black man in the community, I understand the need,” Pruitt said. “I understand what the youth in our community are going through and there’s leadership that is needed.”

Mentors from CU 1-1 spoke at a recruitment event Thursday morning at Urbana City Building.

“We’re really looking for mentors who love kids,” Thomas Howley said. “This is about kids. It’s about having fun with children.”

Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin echoed his sentiments.

“Think about being a mentor,” she told people who attended the event. “Think about teaming up and partnering with just one student in Urbana Schools.”

CU 1-to-1 is hosting a recruiting event Thursday morning. Mentors will be there to share their experiences.

While it’s a one-hour commitment each week, mentors said it can make a lifetime of a difference.”

“It’s like a plant, right?” Petchareun said. “You plant that seed, begin to water it, sunshine, water it, sunshine and all of a sudden they blossom.”

CU 1-1 is hosting two training sessions on January 30 and February 12.

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