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Today's word on journalism

Friday, May 12, 2006


PETERSBORO, Utah -- Gloom like a Bulwer-Lyttonesque pall hung heavily over the Cache Valley as word came that the WORD had gone.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire. . . ." No, wait. . . . That's actual Bulwer-Lyttonism. Scratch it.

We conclude, with joy and trumpets and a tankard or two, the 10th season of TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM. What began in 1995 as a professor's strategy to get his students to read email (guess that worked!) now has spread, birdflu-like, far beyond that unwilling audience to self-flagellating WORD volunteers on five-and-a-half continents. But the willing and unwilling alike--the halt and addled and addicted and deluded--will have to get a life and smell the roses, for a while anyway.

Today marks the end of the WORD for this academic season. Even ere the rosy dawn that didth bust o'er this glade, this vale, this happy home. . . . ooops. Avert already, Sir Bulwer, you mangy cur!!!!

See you in the fall. . . TP

Mentors helping Cache kids choose alternatives to gangs and despair

By Brock Anderson

April 24, 2006 | Shaggy-haired and looking for acceptance, 12-year-old "Jimmy" was not happy.

Jimmy, a sixth grade student in the Cache County School District, was trying to find out who he was. Wearing baggy pants that hung well below his waist, shirts two sizes too big and lots of chains, Jimmy thought that life in a gang might be the perfect place for him.

Four months later, Jimmy got a haircut. He got rid of his gold chains and baggy pants, as well as his aspiration to join a gang. Jimmy goes to school and does his homework now. His grades have improved.

This change in lifestyle had nothing to do with his parents or teachers. Jimmy changed because of one Utah State University student's influence.

Jimmy is only one of thousands who have been positively influenced by a mentor. Organizations not only in Cache Valley but throughout Utah and the United States are working to provide mentors for kids in need.

Bryce King, a 22-year-old sophomore parks and recreation management major at Utah State, has been mentoring at a local junior high since last fall. He saw an ad in the Statesman and applied because he originally wanted to go into social work and thought it would give him good experience in his field.

Although King has since changed his major, he still enjoys mentoring 13-year-old "Greg." But it hasn't always been easy.

"When I first started meeting with him I thought he wanted to kill me," King said. "It was hard to get a word out of him about anything."

King said Greg didn't fit in well with his classmates. On the afternoon of their original meeting, King learned that he was the first person that said anything to Greg that day.

"It was kind of a shocker at first because it made me realize that this kid didn't even get a 'good morning' from his family."

But Greg reminded King of someone else: himself.

"When I first met him he sort of reminded me of what I looked like in middle school," King said. "I wasn't ever the most popular kid in any of the schools that I went to. I was the sort of kid that kind of just tagged along in any group even though I didn't fit in."

Growing up, King's father was in the military. From Arizona to Texas, Colorado and Washington, D.C., King has always been on the move. He even lived in England for awhile.

"Having a mentor would have helped me gain more confidence in myself and my school life," he said.

King and Greg meet every Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. The first hour they work on Greg's homework. The second hour they do whatever Greg wants. King said a trust and friendship has developed between them.

Jimmy and Greg are only a couple of students that have been influenced by mentors in the Cache County School District.

"We have seen great success in a short time," said Melia Balls, project director of the Cache County School District mentoring program.

Mentoring is an after-school program. The Cache County School District received a grant to implement the mentoring program in fall 2004, and now have about 50 people mentoring. For an hour or two each week mentors meet with fourth through eighth grade students who applied for the program.

Students seeking to have a mentor must be referred by themselves, a teacher, parent, or school counselor.

Balls said students have mentors for various reasons. Some come from single-parent homes, while others are trying to deal with emotional stress, like a death in the family. Others have parents who both work, so they want someone to interact with after school.

Now that the program is starting to grow, Balls said many students want to sign up just because they see their friends having a positive experience with a mentor.

"Sometimes they're called at-risk, but we like to say they're on the brink of success," Balls said about the students. "Ultimately we want to get the students to the point where they want to succeed in school."

However, Balls also said that there's more to mentoring than just raising GPA's. "Mentoring is about the relationship."

King says that being a mentor has given him the opportunity to give Greg a better middle school experience than he had.

"I am there to be a role model and an example," King said. "I am there to support and encourage. In my eyes the mentoring program is not about passing classes, but recognizing how setting goals in education and life can have an effect on your life now and in the future."

Barbara Drake of the Utah Mentoring Partnership in Salt Lake City, said that student progress in the mentoring program depends on the relationship they have with their mentor.

"Some [relationships] have lasted for many years, and those are the ones that can really have long-term benefits," Drake said. "But any time spent with a child can make a tremendous difference."

Drake said mentoring helps students in many ways. It helps increase students' confidence academically and socially. Also, delinquent behaviors decrease, school attendance improves, and tobacco use decreases when students have mentors.

King has seen significant changes in Greg since last fall.

"When I first met him he was failing all of his classes, but now he is passing at least one," King said. "You may say that that is not much improvement, but it's a start. And when he can recognize that he can do it, then you know that the change has taken place.

Through mentoring, King said, Greg has also started to interact and fit in better with his peers.

"The first couple of months that I went out there to mentor, [he] always was by himself," King said. "Now when I go out there he has friends around him doing homework, or even better, just interacting with him."

King and Greg are working now on succeeding, rather than just trying.

"When we try we never finish, but when we have the goal to succeed we always complete the tasks at hand."

For more information on becoming a mentor, contact Melia Balls at (435) 757-0139 or


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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