Letters to the Editor

Mentors provide vital support

An open letter to the NAFC community:

In the days since the recent school safety referendum vote, I’ve reflected on the message delivered by the rejection of the measure — which I supported, by the way — and want to share my thoughts on what we may do as a school community moving forward. My overriding takeaway from the vote is that our community does not feel it necessary or, possibly, appropriate for taxpayers to be responsible for paying for the establishment and administration by our schools of programs to address youth specific mental illness, addiction, anger management, bullying, and school violence. As I stated in a News and Tribune letter to the editor in the runup to the referendum vote, I understand this sentiment. In an ideal situation, the support of a child by her or his closest circle of family and friends would eliminate the possibility of programs like these ever being needed. I know my wife and I, like a number of you reading this, I’m sure, provided (or at least tried very hard to provide) a supportive environment at home for our children. Thankfully — and hopefully at least in part because of our effort — we never had the need for this type of programming (in school or otherwise) for our children. For a number of you, again, I’m sure the situation was or is similar.

Nevertheless, my experience as a weekly elementary school mentor over the last five years has clearly told me — if I didn’t realize it sooner — that a good number of our community’s children are not provided the same level of support at home that I and others are more familiar with. I’m of the opinion that this is not necessarily my individual fault or your individual fault or the child’s individual fault or possibly even the child’s family’s fault. It is perhaps, however, the fault of society as a whole. Noted social scientist Robert D. Putnam, the author of such books as Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community and Our Kids: The American Dream in Crises, states in the October 2015 edition of The Rotarian magazine that “Community bonds and social networks have powerful effects on health, happiness, educational success, economic success, public safety, and (especially) child welfare.”

The simple fact is there are children in our schools that, through at least no fault of their own, lack these community bonds and social networks (and we’re not speaking of Facebook and the like). Minus them, it can be inferred, are negative impacts to health, happiness, educational success, economic success, public safety and (especially) child welfare. I therefore don’t believe it’s a stretch to assume these negative impacts can lead to youth specific mental illness or addiction or anger management or bullying or multiple of these. And since we as a community are not of a mindset to provide resources via taxes for the establishment and administration of programs to further address social and emotional challenges in our schools, I encourage everyone to be personally accountable to our at-risk youth by making a commitment to establish or broaden their community bonds and social networks through mentorship. Put your mouth — and the rest of your body — where your money is (or could have been), so to speak.

Quoting Putnam again: “Careful, independent evaluations have shown that formal mentoring can help at-risk kids to develop healthy relations with adults (including parents), and in turn to achieve significant gains in academic and psychosocial outcomes — school attendance, school performance, self-worth, and reduced substance abuse, for example — even with careful controls for potentially confounding variables. These measurable effects are strongest when the mentoring relationship is long-term, and strongest for at-risk kids. (Upper-class kids already have informal mentors in their lives, so adding a formal mentor does not add so much to their achievement.) Measurably, mentoring matters.”

I’m by no means suggesting that an influx of mentors into our schools could or should replace the mental health professionals currently providing many critical services. My hope is, though, that more mentors will contribute to a slowing of the expansion of professional social and emotional support while we’re figuring out a way to pay for it. The worst thing that could happen by having more mentors in our schools, in my opinion, is that a greater awareness of the needs of our at-risk kids emerges and, subsequently, contributes to other means of addressing those needs. You can find more information regarding mentoring at www.nafcs.k12.in.us and searching Mentor Mii (Mentors get involved and inspire) or by contacting Sharon Jones (no relation), Director of Student Programs and Cultural Responsiveness, New Albany Floyd County Schools.

Thomas Jones, New Albany

Casinos should be smoke-free

Caesars Casino just missed a golden opportunity to CLEAN UP THEIR ACT by going smoke free with their reopening, but they chose to continue the stench, sickness, addiction and premature death.

Their competitors in French Lick will open SMOKE FREE. Hooray! for French Lick. Common sense dictates a clean environment is best for humans. The longer a person lives, the longer they can gamble.

Stop letting tobacco companies tell us we have to breathe SMOKE in order to enjoy life and have fun.

Jamey Aebersold, New Albany

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