Corrections Mentoring Program Puts Children on Right Path
For nearly a decade, employees from Orange County Corrections have spent time each week with local elementary school students as part of the department’s mentoring program. Since 2009, staff members have mentored children at Cherokee Elementary School in Downtown Orlando, and recently began mentoring students at Eccleston Elementary School located in the Richmond Heights neighborhood.
“It’s truly gratifying to see these children learn and grow, and develop in a constructive way,” said Correctional Sergeant Jerry Haddock, who manages the program for the jail. “If we can assist even more kids in our community, the better.”
Sgt. Haddock is using National Mentoring Month in January to recruit more mentors and recognize the work and dedication of other mentors in the agency. It’s just one way that correctional officers work to make a difference, particularly with children, in an effort to deter them from choices that might introduce them to the correctional system. Haddock serves as the perfect role model to youth, given too many children in this program are already familiar with the Orange County Jail after family members or parents have experienced incarceration. In addition to helping ensure public safety through his work at Orange County Jail, the Sergeant was once awarded the Corrections Distinguished Award for his heroism and quick response after he pulled a motorist to safety from a burning vehicle that had crashed.
According to the National Mentoring Partnership, at-risk youth who have positive mentors are:
- 46 percent less likely than their peers to start using drugs
- 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school
- 55 percent more likely to enroll in college
- 78 percent more likely to volunteer in their communities
- 81 percent more likely to participate in sports or extracurricular activities
Orange County Corrections mentoring partnership provides students with support from officers who volunteer to make a yearlong commitment of at least one hour a week. Most choose to do much more, following their student from grade to grade.
Correctional Captain Laurie Long maintains contact with her mentee, even during the summer months, when school is out of session.
“These kids need to know that they can count on us consistently and we won’t take a break from them,” Long said.
Throughout the year, correctional officers visit the schools to help kids with homework and other assignments, read to them, play sports with them and just to listen. The officers also serve as positive role models and counsel the children in making better behavior and academic choices.
Featured Photo: Orange County Corrections officer Sgt. Haddock visits Cherokee Elementary School to visit with his mentee, to help with homework and class assignments before school.
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