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February 20, 2009

ULM's nationally-recognized teachers mentor northeast Louisiana's children

Ouachita Parish Schools superintendent Robert Webber praised ULM's College of Education and Human Development during a special ceremony this morning at ULM, where Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Louisiana, ULM, and Webber signed a formal agreement to launch a new mentoring program.

Webber said, "It seems as though ULM is always doing something for us. They are producing wonderful teachers—the best."

ULM students enrolled in Curriculum and Instruction Class 386 will be mentoring students, or "Littles," in the Ouachita Parish School System and Monroe City School System as part of their required coursework during the spring semester. The mentors will be matched according to Big Brothers Big Sisters’ program guidelines and supported by BBBS’s professional staff.

Referencing the College of Education's recent feature in the New York Times, ULM President James Cofer said, "These Littles are working with nationally recognized teachers, and that's a great thing," he said. "This initiative will significantly impact northeast Louisiana's children."

The ULM students will meet as mentors with their Littles once a week at the Littles’ schools throughout the semester. The pairs will share activities typical of BBBS matches – playing games, working on homework, talking, sharing lunch, or other one-on-one activities. ULM students will gain additional learning opportunities by:

• Developing a community profile for the school, classroom, and community in which the Little lives

• Interviewing his/her Little and creating a podcast of a discussion sessions between the mentor and Little about the mentoring experience and what each got out of it

• Showcasing the project in ULM’s annual Teacher Ed Showcase and Convocation

Jane Brandon, Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of NELA, said, "We have partnered with ULM before on a number of shared activities and are delighted to see our partnership grow in such an innovative direction that benefits students and teachers today and for generations to come!”

Brandon expressed excitement over the partnership. “Of course, we welcome the ULM students as volunteer mentors! We have children waiting to be matched with mentors, because we don’t have enough volunteers to go around for all the children who want to take part in the program,” she said.

“Also, Dr. (Sandra) Lemoine and the ULM faculty have come up with what I think is a really creative and engaging way for their students to use mentoring as a learning experience to help them prepare to be great teachers.”

The project will continue in future semesters with ULM students and children in the BBBS program.

“ULM’s College of Education and Human Development is excited about this opportunity to work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of NELA,” said Lemoine, dean of College of Education and Human Development. “This collaboration provides an exceptional learning experience for our students and will greatly benefit the children they mentor.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters is the outstanding local affiliate of BBBS of America, the 100-plus years old preeminent national youth-serving organization. The program serves hundreds of students in Ouachita, Morehouse and Lincoln Parishes, matching them with caring adult mentors who meet with their Little about an hour a week during the school year.

The pairs are matched based on shared interests. The volunteers are carefully screened and trained, undergoing a background and reference check. BBBS professional staff stays in touch with the volunteers and children participating, to be sure the matches continue to be successful, rewarding activities for both.

Results show that the time spent with a mentor is highly beneficial to a child. During the academic year, 2007-2008, studies showed children participating in BBBS of Northeast La. were reported to have improved dramatically in key areas, including improved self-confidence, improved ability to make decisions, improved academic performance, improved classroom participation, improved relationships with peers and adults.

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