Caring community: OMHS mentors help out in the classroom

First graders Tate Ronilo and Ally Ross work through a math game with OMHS mentor Julia Buckner. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

First graders Tate Ronilo and Ally Ross work through a math game with OMHS mentor Julia Buckner. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY—Julia Buckner signed in at the front desk at Inverness Elementary School on Jan. 12, then made her way to her former first grade classroom. Now an Oak Mountain High School senior, Buckner visits Jamie Cox’s class every other week as a student-mentor.

“Their faces light up,” Buckner said of the first graders she mentors as she navigated the IES hallways.

Buckner is just one of many OMHS mentors who regularly visit both IES and Oak Mountain Elementary School. The mentoring program is sponsored by the Shelby County Education Foundation and Publix Charities.

“(My students) get very excited, they love the change, just having different people coming into the room,” Cox said, noting the mentors are “role models for my students.”

The OMHS mentors regularly visit both IES and OMES and help teachers with a variety of things. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

The OMHS mentors regularly visit both IES and OMES and help teachers with a variety of things. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

Mentors serve in a variety of capacities at both IES and OMES. Buckner visits Cox’s class during math hour. She spends time encouraging the students and participating in math games.

“They do math games with us,” first grader Ally Ross said. “It’s just really fun.”

The OMHS mentor visits aren’t just fun, they’re also a learning experience, Cox said, noting the older students help motivate her students.

“The kids love to show off their math thinking and share their strategies for solving problems,” Cox said.

But being a mentor isn’t strictly academic.

“We’re also here to be their friends,” Buckner said.

The OMHS mentors talk with the students and become an important part of the classroom.

“They write letters to my students sometimes… It’s sweet,” Cox said. “(My students) see that other members of the community care about them.”

The OMHS mentor program is not just a special experience for the students, it’s also something special for both Buckner and Cox.

“It’s great,” Cox said. “It’s good to see my former students, how they change and grow.”