Hayneville Middle looks to pastors for student mentoring

Published 9:46 am Thursday, August 15, 2013

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal


Hayneville Middle School is looking to partner with church pastors to help mentor its students.

“We’re fighting a battle, we’re fighting a war,” said HMS Principal Antonio Williams.

“This is a relationship we should have been utilizing for years,” he said. “We’ll be fooling ourselves if we thought that we could change our students’ lives… without the help of our community leaders.”

Williams said before the jaguar, the school’s mascot was the Blue Devil, which he joked the school’s students took literally.

He said the students chose and designed and voted on the new mascot.

He said the school also changed its mission statement to something that simple and easy to remember to “passionately obtain our highest potential.”

Williams said students, teachers, administrators and community leaders could all buy into that.

He said when students return for the start of school, everyone will sign off on a contact toward that goal including students, teachers, administrators and parents.

Williams said the students will also set their own goals.

He pointed out to the pastors who gathered at the school for a reception at the school on Thursday, Aug. 1 some of the school’s demographics.

He said Hayneville Middle School has more males than females. The student population is currently 100 percent black and has 98 percent participation in the free and reduced lunch program, which he said means a high poverty level.

But Williams said the school has a good student/teacher ratio at 20 students per teacher.

Williams said the school has boasted the winner of the school district spelling bee the last three years in a row, has 21st century classrooms with a Smart Board in every classroom and document cameras.

“Our students have some of the best technology,” Williams said.

But he said parental and community involvement “is not where we want it to be.”

He said that is an area in which the school is turning to pastors for help.

Williams said he wants pastors to help increase students’ interest and motivation. And he said he wants pastors to help communicate the importance of education.

Williams asked that area churches to help host events for the school such as Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) meetings and tutoring efforts. He also asked that churches help announce school events such as when report cards go out.

But the highlight of the reception was the introduction a new mentoring program the school asking local pastors to help.

“Are you ready to fight with us? I want to fight to make sure we save as many lives as possible,” Williams said.

Pastor Sylvester Hardy of Jonathan’s House of Prayer suggested a liaison between the churches and the school who will now be Stephanie Rogers.

Another pastor suggested programs on gang activities.

But Hayneville Middle School Counselor Erica Chatman spelled out the details of the Mentoring Moments Program. She said it will be designed to target students suffering academically due to socialization issues.

She said the school would like to bring in mentors including pastors, businessmen, tradesmen to “have a positive impact on students.”

She said the goal is inspire students to recognize their potential and “model positive behavior.”

Chatman said teachers would select the students who need mentoring, recruit and train mentors and ask pastors for help to find local community mentors. She said Mentoring Moments will be “a year-long commitment” including formal group activities, outings, as well allow mentors to sit in the classroom and eat lunch with the students.

“This is really dear to me,”Chatman said, “because I think about things I went through as a child.”

She said the most influential people to her were not necessarily her blood kin. She said they were people who “came in and took that extra moment.”

And she told the pators, “We can’t do it without you.”

Pastors who attended pastoral reception included: Sylvester Hardy of Jonathan’s House of Prayer, Donald Craig of St. Paul CME, Robert L. Shuford of Mt. Zion AME Zion, James Grice of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church I, Roderick M. Smith of Camp Creek Baptist Church, Otis Smith Jr. of Friendship Baptist Church, Kenneth Scott of Temple Gate Church and  Willie Smith of New Salem Christian Church.