402nd FA Mentors Children for Partners in Education
EL PASO, Texas - Members of Division West's 402nd Field Artillery Brigade recently began their Partners in Education season with Dr. Sue Shook Elementary School with a meet and greet with selected students.
The PIE program with the school began three years ago when the school's counselor reached out to Fort Bliss for mentors and the 402nd's Headquarters and Headquarters Battery responded to the charge. Since then, the school counselor has noticed a difference in participating children's behavior, aptitude and attitude.
"We've noticed grades come up, attendance on Friday has increased, [and] their motivation to come to school has increased because of the mentors," said Monica Dominguez, school counselor and a Texas School Counselor of the Year winner.
Dominguez has worked with Socorro Independent School District for 11 years, teaching first grade for seven years and counseling for four. She said the 402nd FA Brigade Soldiers have impacted the students at Dr. Sue Shook Elementary School in ways immeasurable by tools and instruments.
"They have somebody that they can look up to - a role model," Dominguez said. "That's why we've added more to the group, because we wanted to impact more students."
The number of student participants in the mentorship program almost doubled this year compared to last year. The meet and greet hosted 23 children, and more students may be referred in.
Student selection for the mentorship program is based on criteria that would otherwise categorize them as a "troubled youth," according to Dominguez. The back stories of some of these children are ones commonly associated with behavioral and motivation issues. Referrals are based on a child's less-than-desirable academic, behavioral and attendance record, as well as personal situations pertaining to home life.
Dominguez said she noticed a change last year in students' motivation to come to school, at least on Fridays when the mentors were coming. Grades increased due to mentor tutoring, tips and encouragement. Some of this year's student participants remained from last year, but many have moved on to middle school or have excelled their way out of the program.
During an icebreaker event, Soldiers and children circled around a carpet and passed a football. Whatever number the catcher's thumb landed on pertained to a certain question they had to answer - a way of getting to know the participants better.
"I like how excited the kids got to see us," said Sgt. 1st Class Evelyn Veal, the brigade's Intelligence noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "It was funny, when we were standing on the carpet, it was, 'I want to stand next to the Soldier' and 'Give the ball to the Soldier.' It was cute."
Afterward, the group broke into smaller sections to build towers out of pipe cleaners, a team-building event.
"The tower was awesome; the kids had a lot of great ideas," Veal said. "They wanted to make sure they put a watch tower on our actual tower ... One of the kids made, like, three cannons. One of the little boys, Lucas, he rolled up the pipe cleaner into the number 8 and he was like, 'Hey, put this on the tower.' I just said, 'OK.'"
Veal said one student told her that she felt bad for her friend for not being selected for the program because she enjoys it so much. This is Veal's first time participating in the HHB's Partners in Education program, and she said she intends to volunteer at the school often.
"I thought this was awesome," Veal said, "a very rewarding experience."
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