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School system, students thank HOSTS mentors

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / May 18, 1998

DESTREHAN – The St. Charles Parish School System took time out thisweek to thank those who took time to Help One Student To Succeed.

The first annual HOSTS Parishwide Celebration was held Tuesday afternoon in the Destrehan High School gymnasium. On hand were the morethan 250 students and 380 mentors who have made the program a success over the past two years.

Also on hand was William Gibbons, founder of the HOSTS program and chairman of the board of the HOSTS Corp.. Gibbons started the program asa teacher in Washington in 1977 as a way to get the community more involved in the lives and education of its students.

From that one man’s dream bloomed a program that has expanded around the nation and across the world. Over 48,000 students are currently beingserved by 72,000 mentors on more than 800 campuses nationwide. Theprogram has received numerous national awards in its 25 years of service, including being selected by the United States Secretary of Education as a national mentoring model.

“His actions on behalf on young people and his improvements in teaching and learning speak for themselves,” St. Charles Parish School AssociateSuperintendent Carolyn Woods said in introducing Gibbons.

“It is a great honor to be here,” Gibbons said. “I am humbled to be in thisbuilding that cannot contain the love and commitment shared between the mentors and their students.”Gibbons talked about how he was close to dropping out of school as a student and would have done so if not for his history teacher, Mr. Dibble.Dibble took Gibbons aside and told him he could achieve whatever he wanted. The aftermath of that one teacher taking the time to offer help toone student led to Gibbons being named outstanding educator of the year twice and the eventual formation of the HOSTS program.

The HOSTS program provides a supplemental math program targeting students in seventh and eighth grades who would benefit from individual and small group assistance in math skills. The backbone of the programare the mentors who not only provide math skills but also serve as role models, providing support for the students to succeed not only in the classroom but in life, as well.

Eual J. Landry Middle School in Hahnville became the first school inLouisiana to implement the program during the 1996-97 school year. Thegains since then have been exceptional as the program as spread to all four junior high and high schools in the school district.

Gibbons gave credit to St. Charles Parish School Superintendent RodneyLafon and the St. Charles Parish School Board for having the vision toadopt the program.

“This was the first school district in the state that took the risk to step up and implement the program,” Gibbons said. “The board and Dr. Lafondidn’t know me, but they stepped up and asked for the community to get involved. We have problems in this country, but we have to focus on whatwe are doing right. Thanks for taking that risk.”The statistics spell out the growth of the program. In 1996-97, 92students were served in the parish. In 1997-98 that number was 258. Inthe first year of the program, 110 mentors from 10 businesses were involved. That level of commitment has grown to 381 mentors from 32local businesses and industries. And the number of mentoring sessions hasrisen from 2,000 to more than 5,300.

Gibbons asked the mentors and the students to keep striving toward their goals.

“Keep reaching for your potential,” Gibbons said. “Don’t let anybody tellyou that you can’t reach your potential. All I ask of you is to take what hasbeen given to you and give to another person so that no child can go without a mentor. You are a model for the state, and as far as I amconcerned, a model for the nation.”The students had an opportunity to give something back to their mentors during the ceremony, presenting them with a summer update of their progress. Students also made tributes to their mentors.”My mentor took time out of his busy schedule to help me, Dyronne Polly, an eighth grader at J.B. Martin Middle School, said. “I felt blessed to havehim by my side.”Renee Allemand, a student at Landry Middle School, sang the Gloria Estefan song “Reach” in tribute to all the mentors.

Special recognitions were made to the businesses and industries with multiple mentors, the students who made the highest math placement inventory gains and the outstanding algebra students.

Lafon thanked the school board, HOSTS teachers, instructors, principals and assistant principals for their help in making the program a success.

“This board always works to take a step forward,” Lafon said. “It realizedthis program would make a difference, not just for one student or mentor but for the whole community. Working together, there is not one thing wecannot accomplish for St. Charles Parish.”

Photo by Rebecca Burk.

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