BOE member continues mentoring students

Alabaster Board of Education Vice President Derek Henderson, center, mentors a group of seventh-graders each week. (File)

Alabaster Board of Education Vice President Derek Henderson, center, mentors a group of seventh-graders each week. (File)

By NATHAN KELLY / Special to the Reporter

ALABASTER – In August of 2013, Alabaster Board of Education Vice President Derek Henderson began mentoring five students who attended the Thompson Sixth Grade Center.

At the end of the school year in 2014, Henderson decided to continue mentoring those same five students, who now are all in seventh grade and attend Thompson Middle School.

“It was an easy decision for me,” Henderson said. “I wanted to keep visiting the guys, and they told me they wanted me to keep visiting them.”

Henderson, a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, had never mentored children outside of his own four. Student Services Coordinator Dorann Tanner approached him after the then-principal of Thompson Sixth Grade Center, Neely Woodley, felt they needed a positive role model in their lives.

“Dorann is one of the best,” Henderson said. “She wanted to find someone the guys would enjoy being around, but she didn’t know that I would be getting more out of the experience than them.”

Henderson said he doesn’t know how long he will continue mentoring the five boys at Thompson, but he doesn’t want it to end anytime soon.

“I’m in a unique position to get to see these guys grow up and learn to be men,” he said. “Even though I do not tutor them, I want to be there to give them the tools they need to succeed as students.”

Some of the five boys play sports like middle school-level football and basketball. Henderson said he loves to attend their games and gets a kick out of their reactions when they realize he’s there.

“These are guys that have had a few bumps in the road,” he said. “I’m someone who cares and can be there for them when there’s nobody around to care about grades and goals.”

Since Henderson began mentoring the five boys, their grades and comments from their teachers have improved. He visits them every Friday morning. At that time, they discuss the problems they’re having in school, goals they’ve made, or even shoot basketball.

“I tell them nothing stunts your growth, only you,” he said. “I did my job if they learn that life lesson.”