SWEENY — As more students are nominated to become a part of the Sweeny ISD’s mentoring program, the need for volunteer role models climbs.

T.E.A.M. Up, which stands for Teach Empower Affirm Mentor Uplift, is a mentorship program that began last school year. It is meant to provide students who need academic and emotional encouragement with a positive adult role model, Parent and Community Liaison Lisa Virgel said.

The district began working on the program at the beginning of last school year, and meetings between mentors and students started in January.

Last year, many mentors had to take on more than one student in the program, with 15 mentors available for 25 students, Virgel said.

This year, about 50 more students were recommended by teachers, administrators and parents to be a part of T.E.A.M. Up. They have all been sent home with program forms for their parent or guardian to fill out.

This is not a tutoring program, Virgel said. It is for students who need some extra emotional support and someone trustworthy in their corner helping them through whatever they might be facing.

“They don’t really work on academics. It’s mostly just the social and emotional side of things,” Virgel said.

Many times, mentors and students will sit, play board games and take the time to bond.

Virgel has noticed a change in academic achievement and class attendance in many of the students who have been paired with mentors, she said. On top of that, they seem to open up more through the course of the program.

Senior Trayvon Brooks is one of those who has benefited from the program since he began meeting with his mentor in January.

“It’s really good. I get to take time out of my day to relieve some things I am going through,” Brooks said.

His mentor also shared things about himself, Brooks said, making it easier for Brooks to open up and the two to bond over the course of the last half of last school year.

The benefits from the program do not stop with the students, Virgel said. Mentors get just as much out of meeting with the students, if not more.

Mentor Charles Genella III met regularly with two students last year, until one child moved, Virgel said.

“I feel like the student I mentored benefited from the consistent interaction, but it was also very rewarding for me to be able to give my time and bond with them as well,” Genella said.

Mentoring is his way of giving back to the community, considering these students are future community members, he said.

The T.E.A.M. Up board has met once this school year to discuss when mentors might be able to start meeting with students. Virgel hopes it is when the students return from fall break, she said.

Those who wish to volunteer their time and give back to the district by being a mentor need to understand it is a commitment.

“These kids may have been disappointed by adults. We don’t want them to be disappointed by someone else. They need a constant,” Virgel said.

One of the goals of the program is to have mentors sign up annually and stay with the same students as they progress through their education, so they are able to maintain the bond they have created, Virgel said.

The district asks that mentors meet with students at least twice a month.

The district does background screenings on mentors, Virgel said.

Anyone interested in volunteering to be a mentor can call Virgel at 979-491-8186.

Lyndsey Privett is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0149.

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