Mentor Harold McAdams, left, works with his mentee, 10-year-old Tamarion Flemister, at the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library in Conyers.
Mentor Harold McAdams takes his mentee, Tamarion Flemister, to places like Dairy Queen where they can get a treat. He also helps the boy with his homework and sometimes plays basketball with him. But the most important activity McAdams does with his 10-year-old mentee is to pay attention to him.
"He's reminding me I have to listen. It's not so much give advice to the mentee, but it's more just to listen," said McAdams who has worked with Tamarion for the last two months.
McAdams said Tamarion asks lots of questions and is a very generous child.
"He's an amazing little guy," McAdams said.
McAdams volunteers his time for the Rockdale County Juvenile Court Mentoring program, and Tamarion is the second child he's provided support for since January 2012.
"If there is anybody else who has the time, it's definitely worth it," he said.
The Rockdale County Juvenile Court Mentoring program is in need of more mentors for children referred through the Rockdale Juvenile Court System and the Department of Family and Children Services. Mentors must commit to at least one hour per week for six months and pass a criminal background check. Volunteer mentors must also attend a training session.
Rockdale County Juvenile Court System Programs Administrator Mary Hogan encouraged any interested adults to apply but she said men are always in greater demand because more boys are involved with the Juvenile Court System. Mentors who are Spanish speakers, specifically Spanish-speaking girls, are also lacking in numbers.
The mentor program serves about 15 children, mostly between the ages of 13 and 18. Hogan said there are no children waiting for a mentor but that could change. Some mentors are serving two children at one time, and with the beginning of school, numbers of children referred to the program inevitably increase.
"If I don't get a few (more mentors) in the next month, I'll have a waiting list," Hogan said.
Hogan said sometimes the children in the Juvenile Court System don't get along with their parents, or they come from households with a lot of children and they get very little attention. Mentors can interact with a child one-on-one, allowing the child to open up and more readily accept guidance.
Mentors can also encourage children to reflect on what they would like to achieve as an adult and help them understand that in order to reach their goals, they must do well in school.
"Mentors might ask 'What do you want to do with your future?' A lot of these kids have never been asked that question," Hogan said.
Hogan said the mentor program also provides group trips for mentors and mentees. Last year groups traveled to the Georgia Aquarium and Stone Mountain, destinations many of the children had never visited.
"One of them said, 'It was the best day of my life,' and he said it was the best thing he'd ever done and you don't realize you have that affect on them sometimes," said Hogan of one child's trip to the top of Stone Mountain.
"Sometimes it's exposure and helping them to see that there is a whole lot more out there than what they've experienced."
To learn more about the Rockdale County Juvenile Court Mentoring program, call Sharon Sullivan, mentoring program coordinator, at 678-763-3324, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.rockdalementoring.org.