LELAND, Miss. – As an organization established to help transform the Mississippi Delta from a region of hardship into one of success, the Delta Health Alliance (DHA) doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. It simply wants to roll that wheel from community to community.
Take its highly successful school mentoring program called CARES, or Children Are Reaching Excellence with Support. Begun in 2013 in Indianola, CARES is now establishing itself in Leland and Hollandale, as part of the Deer Creek Promise Community (DCPC).
“I was fascinated by the purpose of this program,” said Kendarius Moore, a DHA staff member who wanted to become involved in mentoring in his free time. “After hearing CARES’ goals for the kids, I was sold. One of my goals is to be a community leader for years to come, so this is just another step on my journey.”
By establishing CARES in the Deer Creek community, DHA is creating another system of support for students. The school-based program was developed in 2013 by the principal at Indianola’s Lockard Elementary School, soon expanding to Carver Elementary School. Targeting students in need of additional support in reading, math and behavioral skills, CARES has established itself as an integral piece of the region’s efforts to ensure success for its youngest residents.
“A quality education means more than simply going to school,” said DHA’s Kristen Hurns. “It requires the entire community, and we want these mentors to know they are part of our efforts to see that these kids succeed in everything they do.”
Mentor recruitment is an ongoing effort in Leland at Leland Elementary School and in Hollandale at Sanders Elementary School, said Hurns.
“We’re looking for all types of mentors; a diverse group to ensure that students receive the kind of support they need,” said Hurns. “Business people, community leaders, church leaders, educators, you name it.”
The statistics from the past CARES Indianola program are impressive:
- From 100 student-mentees in 2013-14, CARES has grown to 227 students currently being mentored in grades K-6.
- Beginning with 23 mentors, CARES has increased to more than 300 mentors. They come from all walks of life, including retired teachers, business people, church members, community leaders and senior citizens.
- CARES is looking for mentors such as Moore to make a profound difference in Deer Creek.
“Although our focus is academic success, I plan to take a holistic approach,” said Moore. “I’m looking forward to building a relationship with the student to let him or her know that we care about their future.”