Cobb Together: Palmer Middle School, Community Mentors Build Champions

Every child deserves to have a champion—a person who will inspire, support, and guide. Many times this person can be their school counselor or teacher, but in some cases, it takes a village.  

Palmer Middle School’s mentoring program is an example of a school bringing resources together to aid students’ social and emotional well-being. 

The school launched the program last school year to help male students with multi-faceted needs. Because of the program’s success, the mentoring program dubbed the “Champion Boys Group” continued helping students this year.  

Through this group, the Palmer Middle School Counseling Department facilitates the work between community mentors, teachers, PTSA, and students.  

The school mentors include members of the Accelerating Community Engagement Coalition (ACE), which is spearheaded by Kennesaw Chief of Police Bill Westenberger.  

“We were excited to expand our village of support at Palmer by collaborating with ACE members to help mentor our students,” said Palmer school counselor and Georgia’s Counselor of the Year Barbara Truluck. 

The Champion Boys Group intervention was born from the desire to help a targeted group of 7th and 8th-grade boys reduce the amount of out-of-school suspensions and a desire of ACE members to mentor youth in need.  

“We spearheaded this collaborative effort to help the boys build connections by choosing mentors of the same race and demographics as the boys in the group,” Truluck explained. “It was our hope and expectation that by being intentional about the pairing, bonds would be built and honest dialogue and support would be developed.”  

Mentors have included local police officers, a mental health counselor, a local head football coach. One of Palmer’s assistant principals even joined in.  

The mentors covered topics, like leadership skills, integrity, friendships and relationships, goal setting for the future, and career job building skills.  

The community mentors keep returning because they look forward to the round table sessions. Some like, Truluck, may even say the mentors enjoy the sessions as much as the boys.  

The boys in the group enjoy the sessions so much that they excitedly ask, “When is our next meeting?”  

In support of the program, the school’s PTSA awarded the program a grant to cover snacks and drinks for each session. The community partners have gifted the boys’ numerous items, including sweatshirts and gift cards.  

There is no doubt about the program’s success. Last year, Palmer saw a 47% reduction in referrals for the boys who participated in the mentoring program.  

The numbers make it clear. Community involvement makes a difference in student success, and Cobb cares.