SIDNEY — A spark of an idea has ignited a meaningful new mentorship program for fifth-grade youth at Sidney Middle School.
As Tom Clark rounded out his final official year in education, he observed some gaps in youth programming in our community. On a mission to narrow those gaps, Clark had the idea of Guys in TIES — a chance to provide mentorship to impressionable young men. Recognizing the need for mentorship among young ladies as well, but recognizing he might not be the right fit for mentoring girls, Clark eventually shared his idea with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County, and a new site-based program was born.
“We decided that this program would be best suited for fives-grade students,” said Mandi Croft, School Liaison for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County. “Information was sent home with all 5th-grade students at Sidney Middle School and over the school’s winter break, we made home visits with parents to have them sign off on their child’s involvement but also understand their role in supporting this program at home.”
TIES, led by Tom Clark, stands for Trustworthy, Impactful, Empowered and Successful, and PEARLS, a new sister program led by local entrepreneur Julie Casiano, stands for Purposeful, Empowered, Adaptive, Respectful, Leading, Successful. Both are designed to provide these young men and women with the necessary life skills to carry them into their teens and adulthood starting with understanding the power of YOUR NAME – YOUR WORD – YOUR TEAM. Both programs will additionally offer one-to-one mentoring coordinated by BBBS School Liaison, Mandi Croft.
“With the three core values of Your Name, Your Word, and Your Team,” said Clark, “we want these students to understand their name and reputation are synonymous. Giving their word means following through. Surrounding yourself with people who make good choices, encourage you to do the same, and support you is what finding YOUR team is all about. We feel if these kids understand these core values, they’ll be set up for success not only in school but in life.”
Session topics for TIES and PEARLS will include conversations such as the power of your name, the value of your word, how to dress for the occasion, how to avoid troublesome situations, breaking cycles, the importance of giving respect, how to be a part of a team (not just an athletic team), and how to be successful by being you! Each session will build on the BBBS One-to-One Mentoring program if the student has chosen to be a part of that, and will introduce participants to a well-respected and dynamic speaker.
On Jan. 11, 30 fifth-grade guys and 25 fifth-grade girls gathered at Sidney Middle School to participate in the first of seven sessions of Guys in TIES and Girls in PEARLS, during which the students were introduced to the program and given a physical symbol of their participation in and commitment to the program — the guys received a dress shirt and a tie while the girls received a necklace with a pearl.
Led by Dr. Todd Rappold and Matt Ruttledge, longtime educators, the guys learned the importance of dressing for the occasion and how to tie a tie.
“To be in the room and see the mood shift with the addition of the shirts, even more with the introduction of the tie, and finally, a completed look was pretty spectacular,” said Clark about the first session. “These guys came into the gym goofing around and left feeling confident and looking distinguished.”
An unexpected element of team building and support came into play, said Clark. “As the guys learned to tie their own ties, they would then turn to whoever was struggling and work to help them get theirs tied. It was cool to see this happen without them being prompted to help each other.”
The girls entered the room with an eagerness to learn about what they would be doing. The session opened with Casiano sharing a very special message with the girls.
“We are so happy YOU decided to join us for this mentoring program that will hopefully fill you with confidence, knowledge, and skills to become the best you,” said Casiano. “The pearl necklace you will receive represents your choice to become Purposeful, Empowered, Adaptive, Respectful, a Leader, and Successful. Cherish this necklace and let it be a reminder that you can do anything you set your mind to.”
The first session activities focused on getting to know each other while also starting to look at what goals we have in our lives and what obstacles might be in our heads about how to reach those goals.
“We’re really excited to see what comes of these TIES and PEARLS sessions,” said Gregg Johnson, Sidney Middle School Principal. “Programs like these are incredibly important in building our students’ confidence and strengthening their connection to our community.”
This program relies on community support both in volunteer speakers and donations. Both Sidney City Schools and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby County would like to thank all who are involved in seeing the success of this new program.