Take Back Polk mentoring program meeting

Jennifer Hulsey talks about the duties of being a mentor in her soon-to-start Take Back Polk program with middle school students. 

Kevin Myrick

The Take Back Polk mentoring program will be kicking off later this month as students from Cedartown and Rockmart Middle Schools, and those providing lessons on life and leadership skills will soon be matched up with youth in the most dire need of help.

In an early morning meeting in the middle school library in Cedartown, a group of mentors made up of members from various roles in the community got their own lessons about how the program will work, and what is expected of them going into this trial year.

Organizer Jennifer Hulsey, county commissioner and middle school teacher, put together a whole year of lesson plans, worksheets and concepts for Take Back Polk, and answered some of the pressing questions generate during an first meeting earlier in the summer.

The idea of the program is to target youth at a vulnerable age in the early teen years of middle school and solve long term behavior problems, like truancy or specific issues like fighting or disrupting class, and also addressing academic issues at the same time.

Students who don’t meet certain goals made during the first meeting with their mentor won’t get to participate in a field trip to the Polk County College and Career Academy in late October, and if they continue to fail in goals they will also miss a late winter trip to the downtown areas in Cedartown and Rockmart to learn about local businesses and leaders.

Hulsey said the field trips are incentives for students to participate in if they do well, and the hopes is that in part the idea of missing out will be at least one motivation for reaching the goals the students set for themselves.

“We want the kids to be accountable for whether or not they’re meeting their goals when we sit down with them each month,” she said. “Not being able to take part in activities is part of that.”

Mentors are required by the Polk School District to provide criminal background checks to participate, and they won’t be kept completely alone with students during the monthly one-on-one meetings, taking place in either middle school’s library or art room. Hulsey also reported to mentors that they’ll be partnered with students based on gender to ensure a comfortable relationship between the pairs.

Check back for more on the program as it develops and the first meeting of students and mentors this month.