(Memphis) Some heavy hitters are behind the fight to get truant students back in school.
Governor Bill Haslam’s Public Safety Team and Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich are backing the plan to keep children off of the streets, out of gangs, and out of jail.
“There’s no getting around the fact that our children are our most valuable and our most vulnerable resource,” said Weirich. “When our kids are not in school, nothing good is happening,” she explained.
The truancy mentoring program helped Rodney Jones, an eighth grader at Chickasaw Middle School.
An example of how the program works, Jones’ mother said he missed at least five days of school before getting a letter to show up in court.
It was a wake-up call and how he got his mentor.
“We go out talk…might grab something to eat. We just talk about school, how we can help imporove — improve me being in school more,” Jones said.
The program started about seven years ago with just three schools, and jumped to serving 13 elementary and middle schools.
The program’s inventor, Former District Attorney Bill Gibbons, said other county should soon be taking notes.
“The key, if it’s going to be a model, is to make sure we have enough mentors,” Gibbons, who now serves as the Commissioner for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said.
As of now, there are not enough mentors to meet the demand, so Gibbons decided to sign up.
“I am turning in my pledge form to be a mentor in this program,” he said.
It is an example he and current mentors hope others will take.
“Rodney’s a special guy. And the thing is it’s not just Rodney – there’s a lot of special guys out there.”
If you want to become a mentor, it is just eight hours a month for one year. Mentors are required to pass a background check and complete a one-day training.