Sixth grade is a time of change for students, letting go of their childhood and beginning to enter their teenage years. School can become a struggle as students try to figure out what they’re going through and where they’re going. It’s an important time to have someone special on your side.
“My mom was a sixth grade teacher,” said Ross Gloudeman, a volunteer with the Stein Fellowship program. Stein Fellows mentor sixth grade students through Achievers For Life, and the Stein Fellows are mentored themselves by a member of United Way’s Tocqueville Society.
“Needs got taken care of,” said Gloudeman about the small Wisconsin community he grew up in. He remembers selling construction paper bands and jumping ropes to raise money for children who suffered from life-threatening illnesses.
“Those kids were sick. I would beg for a nickel to help,” said Gloudeman.
Moving to Jacksonville three years ago to become legal counsel for Black Knight Financial, Gloudeman realized that he was ready to return to that kind of commitment. A friend brought him to a United Way Tocqueville event where he watched who he calls the “titans of giving” joining together in friendly competition to create positive change in Jacksonville.
“As a newcomer to the city, it was a way to meet like-minded individuals.” said Gloudeman. But the event also was a reminder of the spirit of giving instilled in him by his parents at a young age.
“My dad was a Vietnam vet and was always giving to help other vets. My mom, like all teachers, was always giving, always setting up her own classroom. Teachers are always buying their own supplies… spending half their paychecks.”
After watching his student mentee spend 20 minutes trying to get online to check his grades, Gloudeman decided to donate two computers and other needed technology to Jefferson Davis Middle School, the Achievers For Life site where his mentee attends. He knew first-hand how crucial having basic supplies and internet access are to students.
“I remember using a Commodore 64 and an Apple 2E at school! I was fired up,” said Gloudeman. “Today the internet and computer use are ubiquitous.” He feels that lack of internet and computer access sets students up to fail in modern society.
Gloudeman is continuing his relationship with his mentee this year, moving up with him through middle school and its challenges.
“Relationships take time,” said Gloudeman. “I’ve learned a lot – practicing math problems on napkins and getting to know his family.”[hr]
With the new school year beginning, there’s a great need for mentors, especially men. Become a mentor today!