Kannapolis school’s mentoring program will live on

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 23, 2017

By Rebecca Rider


KANNAPOLIS — Kannapolis Intermediate School is disappearing. In August, its fifth and sixth grades will be absorbed into Kannapolis Middle School and various elementary schools, while the building itself begins a new life as G.W. Carver Elementary School.

But parts of the school will live on. Guidance counselor Elizabeth Vaughan is determined that one of those pieces will be Kannapolis Intermediate’s mentoring program.

Vaughan helped start the program five years ago as a way to build ties between the intermediate school and A.L. Brown High School, which is just down the road on East C Street. She hoped it would expand and build bridges between elementary schools, as well.

“We had ideas of what the potential could be but had no idea what it would turn into,” she said.

Since the program’s beginning, she has seen those dreams become a reality. The program has grown over the years, becoming popular with both intermediate and high school students, and it has expanded into two district elementary schools.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, a crowd of high school and intermediate students can be found in the school media center, sitting around tables or off to one side in pairs. They talk, play cards, piece together puzzles or try to outsmart each other in Battleship games. Sometimes, they meet in the gym.

“We don’t have a lot of structure to it,” Vaughan said. “We kind of depend on them to build the relationships.”

The students meet together for a time first thing in the morning. It works out well because of different schedules for the two schools. Classes at the intermediate school start nearly an hour earlier than at the high school. According to Vaughan, many of the mentors choose to walk between the two schools.

It’s become quite a popular program, as well. The high school mentors have to apply for slots, exhibiting a certain level of maturity and responsibility. Intermediate students only have to sign up.

“I kind of firmly believe that everybody needs a mentor,” Vaughan said.

Sometimes students request to be a part of the mentoring program, and sometimes it’s their parents. But the program is so popular that the school has a waiting list.

And both parties benefit.

“I just think there’s so many benefits to building relationships with older peers,” Vaughan said.

Seeing successful high school students can motivate those being mentored to do better in school or help them imagine themselves in high school and beyond. Vaughan also has seen the program bolster attendance. And, of course, there’s the benefit of having a connection with another person.

For many students, their mentor is someone that they can talk to when times get rough, helping them interact in group dynamics.

“A lot of these kids need that helping step,” said Patrick Fongemy, a senior at A.L. Brown.

Fongemy started out as a mentor when he was a high school freshman and has returned every year to take a new student under his wing.

“It’s my passion,” he said.

Next year, Fongemy will be gone, Kannapolis Intermediate will be gone, and the program, too, will undergo a change.

“It will look different next year,” Vaughan acknowledged.

But it won’t disappear. Vaughan hopes to continue it as part of G.W. Carver Elementary and to keep the program going at other elementary schools. She’s also toying with the idea of hosting the sessions at A.L. Brown to help kids become familiar with the high school they’ll one day attend.

“So I’m excited about that,” she said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.