HOSTS instructor honored

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 11, 1998

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / May 11, 1998

HAHNVILLE – “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stayfor a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever thesame.”That’s the slogan for the HOSTS (Helping One Student to Succeed) first annual Parishwide Celebration being held Tuesday at Destrehan High School to pay tribute to those mentors and industries that participated in the program over the past year. But without the work of one teacher atEual J. Landry Middle School, the HOSTS program may not have had thesuccess it has had in St. Charles Parish. When Evan Smith took the job of HOSTS Instructor at Landry, she had no idea what idea of what impact she would have on students at the school.

Two years later, that impact has grown across the parish and around the state.

Smith was recently honored for her success with the HOSTS program, receiving the Betty Scharff Memorial Award as HOSTS Math Teacher of the Year at the 20th Annual HOSTS National Conference in Dallas. She wascited for her dedication, leadership and outstanding contribution to the HOSTS program in St. Charles Parish.Smith said she was overwhelmed when she heard she had received the award but said it took more than one person for the success of the program.

“It only happened because of Ms. (Judith) Holder (Landry HOSTS Assistant)and the other HOSTS teachers,” Smith said. “It was not just me. There isso much involved. It is not just one person.”Smith, originally from Texas and a graduate of West Texas A&M, came to Landry six years ago. She was the band and choir director at Landry whenshe was approached about becoming the HOSTS Instructor in the 1996-97 school year. The program intrigued her, and she went to Texas to see aschool that had it.

“I thought it was a wonderful way to reach many kids, which is what we do,” Smith said.

At the time there were no HOSTS programs in Louisiana. Instead of feelingpressure in implementing the first program in the state, Smith saw it as an opportunity.

“I was able to set it up like I felt was best for Landry,” Smith said. “Thatis what is so wonderful about HOSTS. It can meet the needs for theindividual school.”Smith said she saw the program as a way to get the whole community together.

“The goal was to bring the community, parents, business and industry and the students together as one unit for the betterment of the child,” Smith said.

Smith and Landry principal William Picard sat down with business and industry leaders and plant managers to recruit mentors which are the backbone of the program. The response they received was very positive.”They have a major stake about what goes on in the community, and these students will be their future work force,” Smith said.

Ten businesses signed up last year and contributed 2,000 mentoring hours.

A year later, 32 businesses are on board, providing 5,300 hours of mentoring.

The program also was received positively by the faculty and administration and school system personnel. Over the past two years, 90percent of the faculty at Landry has been involved in mentoring, giving up one planning period a week to be with a student. School SuperintendentRodney Lafon mentors as does members of the school board and the central office.

“It is not isolated support,” Smith said. “It is coming from everywhere.”The students also received the program with a positive attitude. Smithsaid the program has helped increase student attendance, grades and attitudes not only in the mentoring sessions but also in their other classes as well.

“It is interesting to see the students’ reaction to the adults and vice versa,” Smith said. “The beauty of the program is that the mentor workswith the same child. They see the growth and successes the whole year.”In fact, the program has had more than just an effect on the student’s academic performance.

“They want to be mentors,” Smith said. “This is long-term. They want tosome day give back to the community.” Smith said the first year of the program at the school involved trial and error but also saw major gains in the students academic performance and made it much easier to gather even more mentors for the second year. Theprogram has now spread to the other three middle schools in the parish – Albert Cammon, Harry Hurst and J.B. Martin – and across the state. In1996-97, there were 110 mentors at Landry. This year, that number is 150with over 400 mentors districtwide.

Smith said the true award is seeing the students grow academically and socially.

“Seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces as they gain confidence with the mentor and class,” Smith said. “It is wonderful when they have anunderstanding of it and can share it with others.”Smith said she sees the program continuing to grow in the future.

“I am proud of it,” Smith said of the program. “It is something I wouldlove to see my own child involved in. It is every teacher’s dream. Theywould love to have one on one sessions with the children every day.

“I think it is wonderful. We are reaching a large number of studentsdirectly and indirectly and have seen academic and social growth. I see itgetting even better.”

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