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Kimm Waller Ware, Robin, Debra Johnson

Match of the Month

Program Spotlight: Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School

When there are mentoring champions in a school’s leadership we frequently find a community of many happy mentoring matches. Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School is a prime example of this. Emily Wade-Thompson, former Principal, and Kimm Waller Ware, School Social Worker, are two SFUSD employees who model how to develop a culture of caring and mentorship into a school’s community. Under their leadership Mentoring For Success was launched at Carver, and both women continue mentoring individual students themselves. Emily is now a Supervisor in the Bayview Superintendent’s Zone but continues to mentor a student at the school, and Kimm, who launched the mentoring program in 2010, has mentored three different youth since the program’s inception.

A happy Carver match.

Their commitment to mentoring has helped institutionalize mentoring at the school.  According to Kimm, “The mentoring project has worked wonders for the Carver family. 19 of 32 staff members at the school are mentors. The children involved are always eager to meet with their mentors, but what makes our mentoring program special is the commitment and buy-in from our school staff. Many of the mentors have expressed how the program has helped them just as much as it has helped their mentees. It has helped them with relationship building and maintaining a relationship with the childrens’ families.  Many of the mentors do not have children, or their children are grown. For those mentors it’s like a replacement of family, having 1:1, positive interaction with young people who need that extra push, pull, or shove.I have a waiting list of 23 students who are dying to have a mentor.”

Having worked at Carver for nine years Ms. Ware has a long term perspective. And she believes that the climate at Carver has improved as a result of the community that regularly gets together through the mentoring program.  She readily expresses  appreciation for the support and participation level the mentors bring to the program. Every mentoring activity is a complete success because each and every mentor puts their all (enthusiasm and effort) into the events and projects. 

One such mentor is Debra Johnson, Resource Specialist, who  is currently mentoring two students, Brianna, who she started mentoring in second grade, and Robin, a 5th grader who she began mentoring this school year.  Kimm’s two favorite two activities were the pumpkin decorating in October and the Christmas potluck/Ginger Bread/Ornament Making project in December. Both projects were art related. “Since our children don’t get many chances to do art, so they get extremely involved.” Kimm sings Debra’s praises for her support in keeping the program going. “Debra never misses an activity. In fact, Debra reminds me monthly to plan the next activity before the month ends and since she is our School's Climate Coordinator, she often offers food ideas and provides a dish for the event. She is always so helpful in getting the activity started and stays the entire allotted time.”

Meredith Denton, April Atencio. and Debra Johnson, Mentor Appreciation Event 2013

Debra and Brianna, her mentee last school year, spent good times going to the Academy of Sciences, a Warrior’s game, and spending time at school reading books, playing board games, and making arts and crafts. When Debra began mentoring Brianna she barely spoke—she was very timid and shy—but by the end of the school year she had become very talkative.  When Brianna transferred to a different school this Fall, Debra decided to mentor a new student since she had seen positive results with Brianna. 

Debra has been meeting with her new mentee Robin this school year, and is beginning to get a and playing games at school but they also have goals to visit Chinatown, go on the Ropes Course, and to get Robin involved with a dance class. Debra understands the value of a caring adult outside the family from personal experience. “There was a time in my life when I didn’t live with either of my parents, and it left an important imprint on my heart that I could contribute something positive to a young person because every child deserves access to a caring adult. My mentors were my teachers and counselors. They always encouraged me to do my best and to further my education. They influenced me to become a teacher.”

Debra is thankful  and pleasantly surprised at how the mentoring has been going.  It’s reinforcing to her that the two young ladies look forward to the time they spend together. In hindsight her initial feelings about mentoring make sense. Debra shared that she was nervous and excited about becoming a mentor when Kimm invited her. “I was excited because I knew it was an opportunity to build a positive relationship with a young person and I didn’t have to do any assessments (smile). And a little nervous because it was my first experience.”  Having mentored for over a year now Debra’s advice to new mentors is to be patient, friendly and consistent. “Try to be a good listener and offer choices for those that may be shy. My third grader was extremely shy initially. Asking open ended questions helped her share.”

Mentoring For Success is honored to work with the Carver team.  They are making a  tremendous difference in the lives of many young people.

To learn more about community partnership opportunities with Mentoring for Success, please contact Erin Farrell, or 415-242-2615.

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Student, Family and Community Support DepartmentSan Francisco Unified School District