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CCU Atheneum: Kelly Muench with the fifth grade student she spends time with at Waccamaw Elementary School.
Kelly Muench with the fifth grade student she spends time with at Waccamaw Elementary School.

Have you hugged a mentor today?

by Mona Prufer
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Mentor: an experienced and trusted adviser.

The concept of mentoring has gained in importance in recent years as South Carolina’s high school dropout rates continue to climb. In an effort to reverse those startling numbers, Coastal Carolina University has been growing its own mentor program for six years now.

The Dalton and Linda Floyd Family Mentoring Program – pairing University students with K-12 kids who need encouragement – has grown from 53 CCU student mentors in four area schools to more than 240 mentors serving in 14 Horry County schools. The mentors come from all years, all majors, both male and female.

Kelly Muench is one of the CCU mentors. Shegives an hour or two of her time each week to visit a school age child who benefits from having an older friend who knows the ropes.

A junior marine science major, Muench is entering her fourth semester as a mentor and loves to talk about her mentee, a fifth grader she visits one day a week at lunchtime to provide “just a little encouragement.” More than a year later, she can tell she’s made a difference.

“Her teacher pulled me aside and told me that she (the mentee) was having family issues at home and missing a lot of school,” says Muench. “I told her it was really important to come to school every day, and I’ve heard she’s been doing better. She’s also not as quiet, her grades are better, and she gets really excited about my visits,” says Muench. “Sometimes they just need a little push from someone who’s not a parent or a teacher.”

The experience has been nothing but positive for Muench, who plans to work with children in some capacity in her chosen field: “I would recommend this program for anyone, even if they haven’t been around kids a lot. It’s only an hour a week; anyone can make time for that. And it’s so rewarding.”

Since beginning in the fall of 2004, CCU mentors have spent 23,775 documented hours with children.

In celebration of that feat, Coastal is recognizing National Mentor Month this January with several planned activities – a reception, information kiosks around campus, thank you cards and a community service project.

CCU mentoring programs, administered through the Spadoni College’s Biddle Center for Teaching and Learning, include the Horry County grades 4-12 mentoring program; the Early Intervention mentoring program; the Georgetown County mentoring program; Chanticleers Reaching Out with Wisdom (CROW), in which athletes and coaches speak to young students; and the Run, Jump and Throw with the Chants, in which track and field students work one-on-one with budding young athletes.

There’s also Students Navigating and Advising Peers (SNAP), offered through the Office of Multicultural Services; Peer Leaders in the First Year Academic Advising Center; Students Helping Others Reach Excellence (SHORE), offered through the Office of Counseling Services; and ChantiPEERS in Counseling Services.

Some special mentor activities are scheduled on campus during the month:

• Tuesday, Jan. 26, noon to 2 p.m., CCU Mentors: Be the Change Reception, Wall Boardroom

• Wednesday, Jan. 27, noon to 2 p.m., mentoring information kiosks around campus

• Thursday, Jan. 28, noon to 2 p.m., Thank A Mentor Day – the University community is encouraged to make cards to promote mentoring at CCU and to thank mentors. Stop and make a card at tables at the entrances of Edwards, Prince, Coastal Science Center and Wall buildings.

• Tuesday, Jan. 26 through Thursday, Jan. 28, Community Service Project – Collection boxes are placed around campus to gather resources for use in mentoring activities, such as books, balls, running shoes, games, etc. Boxes can be found at the entrances of the Lib Jackson Student Center, Office of Multicultural Services, Edwards, Prince, Wall and Coastal Science Center
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The National Mentor Month designation was created in 2002 by Harvard University’s School of Public Health and MENTOR. It is co-sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The goals of the special month are to raise awareness of the importance of mentoring and to recruit new mentors.

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