Being a mentor, when done well, can inspire a child to consider the impossible; like flying a helicopter. At Reilly Elementary School, a unique partnership with the Department of Public Safety is doing just that. Each year more than 85 DPS employees are signing up to mentor students in weekly, one-on-one meetings. They are role models, trusted advisors, and adult friends. They are quiet heroes, who, like pebbles tossed in a pond, never see the ripples they make, touching the lives of students, families and the community where they serve. That is, until they host their annual Helicopter Party!
One way that the Reilly/DPS mentor partnership candemonstrate its impact is through its yearly Helicopter Party. Visible to everyone who attends the party is the commitment and love these mentors have for their students. Each May DPS employees plan a party as a final mentoring event for the year. They design t-shirts and invite their students and some of the school staff who works with the mentor program. Excitement at the school is visible as the day approaches. On the day of the party, the mentors walk together from the neighboring DPS offices to the school to pick up their charges. Then the students and their mentors, along with some of the teachers, staff and administrators walk over to the fields by the DPS offices to celebrate. Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and yes, a helicopter are on display, inviting the children to explore and make pretend. Food, games, and balloons round out the carnival-like atmosphere.
But this is much more than a play-date. Eyes wide with wonder, these young students witness firsthand what their mentors do outside of their visits to their school; they learn of their mentors’ commitment to the care and protection of their community. And because many of these volunteers have been serving at Reilly for multiple years, these students go home knowing that their mentor will return in the fall and that he or she is someone who can be counted on.
Austin Partners in Education humbly thanks all of our mentors at every school. This year, more than 600 mentors are supporting nearly 900 children. Still, with 87,000 students in Austin ISD, wouldn’t it be wonderful if each child who wanted a mentor could have one? We encourage you to consider volunteering as a mentor each week at an AISD school. For more information or to register as a mentor, please visit our website at www.austinpartners.org/volunteer .
School Connections Program Manager