Donald V. Watkins
The Crimson Tide Has the Power To Be So Much More
By Claire Larson, guest contributor
©Copyrighted and Published on September 30, 2019
Alabama is a state that could stand to improve its national educational rankings. For many years, Alabama has sat in the outhouse of both the K-12 and college standings. Performance tests typically show less than half of elementary students are proficient in math, science and reading. The good news is Nick Saban and the University of Alabama football team are in a position to help.
In 1991, a non-profit called TeamMates was started in Lincoln, Nebraska by Tom and Nancy Osborne. It relied on the notoriety and popularity of the football program to get the program off the ground. In Nebraska, football is God, just as it is in Alabama. The first year, the TeamMates Mentoring Program matched 22 University of Nebraska football players with 22 Lincoln, NE junior high school students. The mentors were asked to spend at least one hour a week with their mentees participating in whatever they enjoyed doing. The most important thing was just spending time with the students as a positive influence. Twenty-one of those students graduated from high school and the remaining student left to pursue a successful motocross career. Eighteen of those 22 students went on to college.
As the program continued to grow, mentors from the community were encouraged to participate. The requirements were the ability to pass a background check and a commitment to spend at least one hour a week with the mentee at their school. Each year the number of participants in the program increased, to the point where 10,286 students in five states are now being mentored during the 2019-20 school term. In addition, the program is funded through donations and grants rather than government taxes and is not held hostage to the whims of politicians.
It goes without saying, the benefits to the student as well as the mentor are immeasurable, but the benefits to society in general are numerous. Studies show that students who participate in a mentoring program are far less likely to abuse drugs/alcohol, commit a crime, become a teenage parent or rely on public assistance to make it through life and are far more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. Mentees also show an 85% reduction in disciplinary referrals, a 55% increase in academic performance and 75% fewer unexplained absences. Mentoring programs clearly provide the benefit of a more educated populace that is less likely to become a public taxation burden.
Please join me in encouraging Coach Saban to adopt a similar program. The Crimson Tide is at the top of the college football rankings this week. Let’s make sure the educational system follows in its footsteps.
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