Mentors show elementary students how to lend a hand

Caring mentors playing positive roles in the lives of youth is an established model with well-documented results.

What was remarkable about the mentors spending time with Oak Mountain Elementary School students earlier this month was that those mentors are grade school students themselves.

The OMHS Business Leadership class has spent the entire school year helping the elementary students, and their efforts culminated with Impact Day 2019, which was a day of turning various projects into realities.

Projects included installing a rock garden, planting raised bed gardens, assembling and painting a new bench for an outdoor courtyard, building and painting an outdoor lending library, painting stepping stones for the pre-kindergarten courtyard, painting three sets of corn hole boards for outdoor play areas and loading canned food that had been donated to Oak Mountain Missions.

OMES Principal Debbie Horton said Impact Day not only improves the school’s aesthetics but helps meet the younger students’ academic and social needs.

“We have students who come to us having experienced trauma, but at their age, they can’t find the language skills to tell us what the problem is,” Horton explained. “Oftentimes, they need to be reset. They need to know that there are enough adults in this building to love them, enough food to meet all of their needs. Learning can’t happen until those needs are met.”

OMES Counselor Hayden Belisle organized Impact Day along with teacher John Milton and others, and said it was important to school leaders for the students to work collaboratively.

“The idea was for our students to have a hand in these projects in order for them to take ownership,” Belisle said. “When they work on it themselves they are so proud of it.”

“Our vision is to grow leaders so that when they grow up they will know that they can do anything,” Horton told the high school students. “Most importantly we want them to grow up to be servant leaders like you are being today.”

The elementary students have a head start toward that goal because of the efforts of school leaders and the willingness of their high school mentors to show them the way.

Stephen Dawkins is a staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 524 or by email at stephen.dawkins@shelbycountyreporter.com.