A little rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of city of Longview officials, school leaders and mentors who gathered Tuesday to recognize National Mentoring Month.

Longview’s Partners in Prevention’s Aspire Mentoring Program marked the month-long celebration with an event at the Coffee Mill on Gilmer Road that recognized volunteers who have dedicated time to being a mentor.

“In the past, we’ve done something different,” said Aspire Administrator Stephanie Adams. “This was the first year that we really wanted to bring our fun and our enthusiasm out into the public and celebrate these mentors.”

Aspire has been around for more than 25 years and matches mentors with mentees. While the program asks for a one-year commitment, some mentors end up being with their mentee for six or seven years, Adams said.

She described the volunteering experience as in-depth, serious commitment.

City leaders who attended Tuesday’s event included District 1 Councilman Tem Carpenter, District 5 Councilwoman Michelle Gamboa and City Manager Rolin McPhee. Carpenter read a proclamation on behalf of Mayor Andy Mack that recognized Jan. 24, 2023, as Aspire Mentoring Day in the city.

“Quality mentoring encourages positive choices, promotes self esteem, supports academic achievement and introduces young people to new ideas,” the proclamation states. “Ninety-four mentors serve 96 children across Longview, Pine Tree, Spring Hill, Hallsville and White Oak school districts, and the city of Longview would like to thank the mentors and those serving in the Mentoring Advisory Council for giving their time and their energy to make the difference in the life a child.”

Community Outreach Coordinator Paula Jimenez said event sponsor Everest Rehabilitation Hospital is offering free coffee for all 94 mentors throughout January.

She added that Aspire is important because of data that backs up the benefits of mentor/mentee relationships.

“Statistics show that a youth who has a mentor, their drop-out rate decreases, their substance abuse and alcohol abuse decreases, their college readiness increases and their self-esteem also increases in a more positive way with their peers, parents and school staff,” Jimenez said.

Cleo Wadley, principal at Pine Tree High School, was one of the Aspire mentors in attendance Tuesday. He said he’s participated in the program the past couple of years because he loves working with youth and making the world a better place for children.

Not only do those values reflect the ones of Pine Tree, but they also reflect his own values and mission in life, he said.

Wadley’s mentee is a student at Pine Tree High School who often gets in trouble at school and has difficulty achieving his academic goals, he said.

“What I work with him on is just getting him to be at peace with himself, ‘cause you can tell he’s very angry and so trying to find peace with himself, and, you know, a tough home life and everything,” he said.

Wadley wants to impart to his mentee that anger and tough times don’t determine who someone is as a person. Additionally, choices can be made to transcend the negative aspects of life, he added.

“People grow in different ways. My thing is is that right no, I’m planting the seed, and maybe 10 years from now, I expect that seed to bear the fruit that I know it will, and the research has shown that mentoring does that,” he said.

For information on how to become a mentor, go to longviewtexas.gov/2615/Aspire-Mentoring-Program or call (903) 237-1019.

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I'm Yoleyne Romero and my beat includes city/county government. I'm a graduate from The University of Texas at Tyler with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication. I have a dog named Okami that provides endless sunshine in my life.