Bridging child, adult interaction
Kaiserslautern Elementary launches new mentoring program

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Long-time teacher Ms. Phyllis Dreger’s eyes light up at the thought of
some of her school’s students lunching and talking with adults in the

Think of it, she said, the camaraderie, the friendship the character building.
This month is the start of the Kaiserslautern Elementary Mentor
Program, KEMP, modeled after the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Ms. Dreger hopes to match 100 adults with children in grades K-5 who
could spend at least an hour a week together.

Children at overseas military bases don’t have their favorite aunts and
uncles or their doting grandparents here with them, Ms. Dreger said.
They miss out on adult relationships where they have a chance to show
off their school projects, play and just interact with adults.

“We’re looking for someone to come in during lunch or recess to be
supportive, be a cheerleader and help a kid find his way,” Ms. Dreger

Kaiserslautern Elementary School principal Donna Donaldson said schools
today are about developing the whole child. That includes character
building and developing self worth, she said. Mentors can help.

“This year our school motto is, making a difference, one child at a time,” Ms. Donaldson said.

Ms. Dreger, working with Capt. Celena Schaddelee, chief of Joint
Personnel Recovery Center Intelligence, started planning the program
last spring when they noticed that children, especially those who have
a parent deployed, could benefit from more interaction with adults.

“I remember what it was like to have a mom and dad deployed for long
periods of time, and I know I could have used a cheerleader to
encourage me along the way,” said Captain Schaddelee, who is recruiting
volunteer mentors for the program.

Children in the program will gain positive, undivided attention, Captain Schaddelee said. Adults will gain perspective.

“For me, there’s nothing like breaking away from a stressful day at
work to make Play-Doh alien spaceships or hear about the latest
fourth-grade drama,” Captain Schaddelee said. “On a more serious note,
listening to a child’s problems dealing with moving to a new school or
having a far-away parent can make your own issues seem trite.”

Kaiserslautern Elementary School teacher Marrah Villarreal has signed
up to be a mentor and awaits her mentee. Children with adult mentors
become more open to developing adult relationships and then often have
better relationships with their parents, Villarreal said.

“What children gain from a mentoring program, is like buying and having
life insurance,” she said. “The mentored child has less negative
behaviors about situations, life and especially school. This gives them
a chance to advance and further their education.”