By Tara Cavanaugh
As the sun blazed away during unusually hot days this week, the Pioneer Trailblazers were hard at work on the grounds of Bach and Eberwhite Elementary schools.
The Trailblazers are a group of 60 seniors who volunteer daily at AAPS elementary buildings. Their work usually keeps them inside as they help mentees with academics, but they also volunteer to help spruce up the outside of the schools too. This week, they removed an old fence at Bach and tended to the gardens at Eberwhite.
“We really appreciate their muscles, enthusiasm and effort,” said parent volunteer Kris Groh, who oversees the Bach’s gardens. “Thank you!”
For the remainder of the school year, the seniors will use their enthusiasm and effort to help students at Bach, Eberwhite, Dicken, Lawton and Pattengill elementary schools. Each senior is assigned a student mentee for an entire year.
“They help with homework completion, long-term projects or concepts for kids who just need that little extra push,” said Don Packard, who has led the program during the past 15 years. Packard is also chair of the English department at Pioneer.
Pioneer students who are interested in the program apply at the end of the school year, submitting a personal essay and letters of recommendation. Attendance and adult input are key factors in deciding if students are granted an interview.
“They don’t have to be A+ students,” Packard said. “Sometimes the students who struggle are the most effective mentors because they know what it’s like to not understand the concepts.”
Abby Ross is a Pioneer senior who remembers her Trailblazer mentors, named Amanda and Jenny, in her fourth and fifth grade classes at Lawton.
“I liked having somebody that came in just for me,” Abby said. “I felt like I wasn’t so alone in class. I remember I’d always get behind, so having her there was always nice. She was just like a big sister to me, almost!”
Abby’s experience with the program as a youngster propelled her to sign up as a senior, she said. “I want to give my mentee the same experience that I had.”