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Be The Greater Good: Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin Put AmeriCorps Mentors To Work On Middle School Grounds

Tania Ortega-Cowan
Alyssa Holmes of AmeriCorps/Boys & Girls Club of Martin County with Chris Jones, Principal of Hidden Oaks Middle School in Palm City, Florida

One of the lessons from the pandemic is to value our teachers and schools, how much they do, and the fact that they can’t do it all.

Today we’re headed to Hidden Oaks Middle School in Palm City (Bell in background and kids).

Safety is top priority, and we are greeted with a temperature check.

All right. Let's see. Excellent.

We have our masks. And we head down to a spacious room to talk.

Staff: I’ve got another plexiglass if you need it!

CJ: My name is Chris Jones. I’m the principal here at Hidden Oaks Middle School. It is invaluable to have additional people on our campus who build relationships and establish connections with kids that foster their desire to come to school.

He’s describing the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County’s AmeriCorps Middle School Mentoring Program. Hidden Oaks is one of five middle schools in the district with AmeriCorps members on the ground all week long.

Nearly 75,000 young, hopeful AmeriCorps members across the country dedicate themselves each year to intensive community service, and in return they receive a living stipend and scholarship benefits. Their slogan is Be the Greater Good.

Here’s Jones again, recalling a recent experience with a student:

CJ: And she was outside my office and she was so tearful and she was like I just want to speak to my mentor. Can you please call her for me? And so, I tracked her down, you may even remember I called.

AH: I know exactly who you are talking about.

CJ: And those kinds of moments really do just have an amazing impact.

Alyssa Holmes is the Team Lead for the school’s program. She’s a local, and learned from many of the teachers she now works with. She’s just earned her bachelor’s in Human Services from Indian River State College. We ask about her overall approach with the kids.

AH: Lots of encouragement is really good. Lots of positive things for them. Even if they did poorly on a test – we like to be like hey what can we do next time? We’re a happy face to tell them that we’re excited they’re here because maybe that’s the only time they hear that.

She tracks three areas.

KF: We call it our ABCs – attendance, behavior, course performance.

This is Keith “Fletch” Fletcher – president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County.

Screenshot_2020-10-20 Leadership Boys and Girls Club of Martin County.png
Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County
Keith "Fletch" Fletcher, President & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County

KF: 80% of our participants maintain or improve in English. 85% maintain or improve in math. And 90% show a decrease in disciplinary referrals. Without thoughtful, strategic, and immediate intervention, we’re on the brink of an educational crisis. We’re no longer going to wait for you to come to our Club to receive what we might judge to be a life-changing, life-altering, life-accelerating intervention – we’re gonna go out and find you.

They track progress using technology.

AH: Check and Connect is the APP we use. It tracks their grades, their attendance, behavior, and our notes.

This information is shared with educators and counselors at the school.

AH: Anything that happens, they use our notes because we might have more information than they have.

It’s time for early dismissal so we head out to the hall. Joining us is the director who oversees the program in all five schools.

OF: My name is Omar Ferreira.

The kids all know him.

(laughing with kids – Hahaha! You fell for it! I can’t believe it)

He explains how the program paves a career path for the actual AmeriCorps member.

OF: They have the theory and by doing this they actually get the practice. The idea is she really wants to be in school, but she wants the flexibility of being able to help kids in many different ways and finding that path is one of the reasons why she’s here.

All: Hi hello.. have a good one.. You're smiling underneath, I see it! It's the happiness of going home.

You can learn more here: https://www.bgcmartin.org/americorps