The Clarke County Mentor Program honored four UGA employees Jan. 20 as Mentors of the Year during a breakfast program to mark its 25th anniversary.
Jeremy Daniel and Susan McCullough in the Facilities Management Division, Grace Thornton in the College of Education and Aimee Martin at the GRU/UGA Medical Partnership were among the 20 mentors recognized for their work with their respective Clarke County students.
The mentor program pairs students who want or need mentors with local volunteers who visit with them at school on a weekly basis and frequently take them to community events or on educational field trips. The program currently has more than 400 mentor-mentee pairs in the Clarke County School District. Its goal is to effect positive change in the lives of students through the encouragement and support of community mentors.
For Thornton, a research development manager in the education college’s Office of Research, the motivation to mentor came from personal experience.
“When my son was in middle school, I substitute-taught for a couple of years as I was deciding upon my next career,” she said. “I worked with many children who were eager to learn, but some needed extra encouragement to help them succeed. I fully believe that education frees us to reach our potential, and I decided that the Clarke County Mentoring Program was a place to put my beliefs into practice.”
Thornton started mentoring in September 2011 and is Mentor of the Year for Coile Middle School.
Daniel, a work management coordinator in FMD’s work management department, said he found mentoring to be an incredibly fulfilling and worthwhile experience. The Fowler Drive Elementary School Mentor of the Year winner joined CCMP in February 2014.
“It is an honor and pleasure serving as a University of Georgia ambassador providing my mentee hope, wisdom, encouragement, empathy and love,” he said. “There is no greater joy than putting a smile on his face and planting seeds with him and his classmates at an early age about attending a postsecondary institution.”
Martin, a clinical instructor for the medical partnership, said her mentoring experience has been “challenging” but rewarding since joining CCMP in April 2015. She was named Mentor of the Year for Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School.
“I am thoroughly enjoying getting to really know my mentee as she has developed some trust in me and has become more open and communicative,” said Martin, who also is an urgent care physician for the University Health Center. “I have tried to approach mentoring with an open attitude and the idea that my main job is to be a stable and invested adult in her life.”
McCullough, a business manager in FMD’s administration and human resources department, began mentoring as a form of community outreach in March 2015. The Mentor of the Year for Howard B. Stroud Elementary School said being a mentor not only provides many benefits to the mentored students themselves but also benefits the larger community.
“By becoming a mentor, one is showing young people today that the community cares for them and is investing in them,” she said. “UGA will benefit in the near future from the relationships they have formed with these children when they enter the workforce.”