One-on-one interaction in the classroom-that's the idea behind the OARS mentoring program at Camdenton R-III School District's Oak Ridge Intermediate.
OARS, which is the acronym for Outstanding Adults Reading with Students, was established 21 years ago and continues to exist because students and mentors alike gain invaluable benefits. Its pairs caring adults with youth, providing one-on-one assistance, helping students achieve academic and personal success.
Mentors help students read, play games, talk, and become trusted, reliable role models. The program is viewed an enormous success by language arts and reading teachers at the school.
Melodee Derby, reading teacher at Oak Ridge Intermediate, said the objective of OARS is to build a bond between the students and an outstanding adult in the community. This volunteer could be a mom, dad, grandma, uncle, neighbor, friend, business employee or just someone who cares.
"The kids love the one-to-one interaction with their partner. Some of them keep their partner several times in a row so they build on that relationship. It's a special time for the students and they really enjoy it," Derby said of the program.
On Dec. 5, The Lake Today was on campus during OARS visits and spoke with several mentor/mentee duos about the program. The assignment for this visit was to read a book back-and-forth to each other followed by a word game. Mentee Autumn and mentor Lenny Kaiser enjoyed the book You Read to Me, I'll Read to You.
"This was fun because there are two characters and one gets to be one and one gets to be the other," Autumn said.
Kaiser, who is a Camdenton resident, said she's participated in the program for years because it is rewarding to help a child be successful in school.
Mentor Sue Rosenthal of Laurie, who is new this year to the program, said she got involved because she missed working with children after retiring from teaching.
"I find it very rewarding. I get to make a new friend, play new games and it's a chance for me to get involved in my community and the schools. I love it," she commented.
Mentor Jerry Robins of Linn Creek said he also finds the program rewarding and has been a participant for four years. He also included that OARS is beneficial for him because he always enjoyed reading to his own children when they were little.
"I don't have any little kids anymore, although, I do have grandkids around once and a while," he said. "I don't get to interact with youngsters very much being retired so it's just kind of fun to come visit with the kids."
Mentor Andrea Rhoades recalled to her mentee of her former OARS partner who she formed a bond with during the two years they read together. Rhoades said she developed a since of pride as her previous mentee improved and looks forward to future OARS visits with her new partner.
Helping improve a child's self-esteem, having the feeling of being trusted and needed and the feeling of satisfaction for having impacted someone's life are just a few more reasons other volunteers said they find the program rewarding.
According to Camdenton School District's website, OARS provides many benefits for students such as improved attendance, increased communication, improved academic performance, increased self-esteem and improved interaction with peers.
"They love the chance to read and show the person what they've been doing and they look forward to it," Derby added.
Coordinator of Volunteer Services for the Camdenton R-III School District Joi Dickemann organizes volunteers for this instrumental program. After placement with an outstanding adult, each quarter the volunteers meet for one-half hour during regular class time to share in the mentee's learning. Dickemann enjoys seeing all the mentors leave OARS with big smiles on their faces and knows they will be back next quarter to see their partner.
The Camdenton R-III School District has an outstanding volunteer program with thousands of service hours donated by more than 200 volunteers each year. Whether volunteers come daily, weekly or monthly, every minute of their time spent at the school benefits the students.
To learn more about becoming a volunteer at Camdenton School District, contact Dickemann at 573-346-9243. The upcoming OARS dates are Jan. 23 and March 13.