From the time he first started talking, Miles has admired police officers. The Austell Elementary School third grader often goes up to police officers and tells them how much he looks up to them.
So when Miles’s mother, Vania Senat, heard that police officers would be mentoring students at Austell Elementary, she signed him up.
The Cobb County Police Athletic League (PAL) recently partnered with Cobb Mentoring Matters (CMM) to mentor students at Austell Elementary and Lindley Sixth Grade Academy. With funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Delinquency Prevention, the National Association of Police Athletic/Activities Leagues, Inc. awarded a grant to the Cobb County PAL to launch a pilot-mentoring program inside the Cobb County School District.
“When I looked at the requirements for the grant that the Police Athletic League needed, it was a perfect fit for what Cobb Mentoring Matters already does,” said Maryellen Gomes, a CCSD social worker and CMM coordinator.
This is not the first time Cobb County police officers have served as mentors inside Cobb schools. On an individual basis, police officers volunteer at schools throughout the district.
“This grant allows us to get officers in mass groups into a school so we can get more kids involved in the mentoring program” said Lt. Stan Bell, Cobb County Police Department.
As part of the new program, the police officer mentors will meet with their mentees for at least two hours every two weeks for one year. Not only will each officer offer a listening ear and friendship to their mentees, they will also take the students through a three-part safety course covering personal safety, community safety and interpersonal safety.
Miles’s mother is eager for him to talk to his mentor about interpersonal safety especially as it relates to social media.
“I want him to learn about social media safety because he does have areas in the YouTube world that he will look for superhero content, and sometimes one click, two clicks lead you into some place that is inappropriate,” Senat explained. “[Miles] is very good at policing himself, but I want him to know, at first sight, what to avoid.”
Senat is excited about the mentor program because she wants to surround her son with positive role models, who have his best interests at heart. She said she hopes the mentor experience will give her third grader more direction in life.
Lt. Bell said the officers want to reinforce what the students’ parents are trying to teach them at home, and that’s one reason the first mentoring session at Austell Elementary on February 13 included the parents.
“This first session allowed the parents to get an understanding of what we are doing,” Lt. Bell added. “We took the opportunity to give an education to the parents and introduce all the police officers so the parents know, who is going to be interacting with their kids every other week.”
Both the parents and mentor program coordinators alike want the students to learn that police officers are there to support and help them.
“We want the kids to have the opportunity to have contact with a police officer in a non-negative environment,” Lt. Bell said. “When they watch news and get influenced by others, the students may have a bad vision of what police entail because they think about encountering a police officer when something bad happens.”
The pilot mentor program may change those misconceptions especially if the mentors follow Miles’s criteria for a successful mentor:
- Be nice.
- Help prepare students for tests.
- Talk/Listen to the students about their problems.
- Help the students get their grades up.
- Prepare students for college and a successful life
Although the grant-funded mentor programs at Austell Elementary and Lindley Sixth Grade Academy are only open to Cobb County police officers, CMM can arrange for other community members to serve as mentors throughout the school district. Anyone interested in becoming a mentor can visit www.cobbmentoringmatters.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.