Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Neptune, Its Workers Join Mentor Program It Gives Employees Leave Time for Kids

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Neptune, Its Workers Join Mentor Program It Gives Employees Leave Time for Kids

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher F. Aguilar, Shorelines staff writer

Neptune Beach became the first city at the Beaches to play host to a mentor program when it began training city employees as mentors last week.

The program allows city employees to receive administrative leave time while mentoring a child one hour a week.

"There are thousands of children in Northeast Florida that need mentors," Deborah Hansen, director of Training and Development for Kesler Mentoring Connection, told city employees. "The fact that you are here speaks so well of you and Neptune Beach, [which] has given you the opportunity to do this."

Kesler Mentoring Connection is a Jacksonville-based non-profit organization in charge of recruiting, training and screening prospective mentors.

The city's program is similar to Gov. Jeb Bush's Governor's Mentoring Initiative, which allows state employees to mentor one hour a week during work. The program was begun in 1999 and officials hope to recruit 200,000 volunteers as mentors. Jacksonville and state agencies offer similar programs for their employees.

Neptune Beach Police Chief Bill Brandt, who has mentored a 7-year-old Beaches-area boy for the past year, suggested the city begin a mentoring program so city employees can be involved.

"Being a police officer and seeing all the things that happen to children is the primary reason for being involved in it," Brandt said.

Brandt said he and the boy mostly talk and play sports during their time together.

Hansen said the Duval County school system needs 1,000 mentors between now and December, especially at schools that scored a D or F in state grades based on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Studies show that children who meet with a mentor are 52 percent less likely to skip school, 37 percent less likely to skip class and 46 percent less likely to start using drugs, Hansen said.

"We are going to need a lot of mentors," she said. "And the Duval County School Board is actively working to turn that situation around. …

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