CORBIN — Thursday evening, the Corbin Board of Education recognized a new program being implemented in the district that allows local community members to mentor students, similar to a Big Brothers Big Sisters type of program.

Former Principal Bill Jones and Corbin Primary Principal Travis Wilder were advocates in bringing the Appalachian Mentoring Program (AMP) to the district. Jones now serves as AMP board member alongside Executive Director Jennifer Cooney.

The mission of AMP is to help children in Appalachia thrive physically, emotionally, spiritually, and academically through mentoring.

Cooney and her husband Paul, a local physician, have spent several years recognizing the need for a mentoring program. Cooney said this program is her passion.

The Appalachian Mentoring Program uses the Christian Association of Youth Mentoring (CAYM) model.

Mentoring has proven effective in helping vulnerable children move past their obstacles, avoid their pitfalls and fulfill their potential. It is also helpful for parents to be mentored by someone who can understand their situation and support them when they struggle, according to AMP.

“There are so many kids that just need an adult in their life,” said Jones.

Last year was the pilot year for the AMP program in the Corbin schools and it started with nine mentors. The idea is that mentors spend approximately 30 minutes a week with their mentee. Jones said sometimes it’s activities as simple as reading to each other or just talking, but what is most important is the consistent showing up.

This year the program has seven mentors and 15 children on a waiting list.

Before a child receives a mentor, the school, family, child and mentor all have to agree that they want to participate in the program.

At the end of the year last year, the program took the children and the mentors to Cracker Barrel for breakfast and Jones said that was really special. The children didn’t know their mentors would be there waiting on them and their faces lit up as they got off the bus and saw them.

According to Christian Association of Youth Mentoring, 40 percent of American children are now born to unwed parents. And less than 60 percent of American children live with their married birth or adoptive parents.

And research proves that mentored children are more likely to improve in school, avoid self-destructive activities and gain hope and vision for the future.

AMP strives to find the best mentors for the children and families. In order to become a mentor, one must go through the following process: Application, Four References, Interview, Orientation and Background Check.

The program is in need of more mentors. From 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on November 2, there will be a training for interested individuals to come and learn more about the program. The training will be held at Parkway Ministries.

It is the hope of both Jones and Cooney for the mentoring program to grow outward into the community.

Cooney said the grant that the program started with runs out at the end of the year and the program is actively fundraising and hopes businesses and community members will see it fit to give to a worthy program.

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