Kids Hope USA director Rhonda Haley, shared with us her experience with starting a Kids Hope USA Next program:
“When I heard Kids Hope was starting Kids Hope USA Next, I knew we needed to at least try. When many of our students graduated to middle school, I felt like they were being abandoned. Middle school comes with its own set of challenges and I knew some of our students were not ready to experience these challenges alone. Many were still having issues and stated that they wished their mentor could follow them to their new school. I saw this as an opportunity.
In spring of 2003 our middle school was going through a staff transition including a new principal. With all the new changes, contact with the principal was almost impossible. The principal from our elementary school was key in helping us get into the middle school. Because of her efforts, a meeting was organized with the middle school principle and counselors to hear about KHUSA Next. They liked what they heard and allowed us in.
My assessment that our students still needed guidance was proven. Many of our students now in middle school displayed discipline issues, however it’s believed by the counselors and me that if their mentors were not there, circumstances would have been worse. With their mentors help, their grades and behavior have shown steady improvement.
At the end of last year, I was pulled into the middle school’s head counselor’s office. She said, “I’ve seen mentoring organizations come and go, but I’ve never seen one like yours. It’s obvious your mentors have a close relationship with these kids. These kids honestly want to be with their mentor and their mentor with them. I want you to know how much you all are appreciated here.” I left that day knowing the decision to start KHUSA Next was the right one.
If any Kids Hope USA programs are considering extending their program to KHUSA Next, I would highly recommend it. Even if at first it seems you are not welcomed, as the middle school administration learns of the program and sees the changes take place in the students’ lives, they will think differently. Middle school teachers and staff are under appreciated. Baked goods every now and then are greatly appreciated and help to warm their hearts. The impact we are having not only with our students but also the school staff makes it worth it all.”