COEUR d’ALENE — Principal Kristina Davenport wants her Borah Elementary to be a community school — a student body that’s fully integrated with its neighbors.
Her team has implemented a handful of projects that gets kids off campus and get community members into the building volunteering and mentoring in efforts to develop relationships.
Fourth graders walk to a local second-hand store to buy supplies for projects. They in turn invite the neighbors to see their work.
Fifth graders have a partnership with a nearby food pantry. They learn the value of donating and helping those in need — plus real-world lessons in math.
Third graders answer the question “How Can I Bless the Community” and have been writing cards to people living next door in an assisted-living complex.
But one of Borah’s most innovative projects this year is called “Mentoring 4 Success” and it matches adults with students who need a positive role model in their lives.
“When someone is consistently invested, you feel valued and some of our kids need that,” Davenport said.
The second-year principal has long wanted to match adult mentors with students, but it took the ingenuity of Ashley Felder, Borah’s community liaison, to orchestrate the idea.
“It was like she waved a magic wand and it happened,” Davenport said. “But I know it’s taken a great deal of thought and time.”
Adults and students are carefully selected and matched in the program.
Background checks, interviews and signed commitments are required for adults, along with training and orientation.
Staff identifies students who could most benefit because they have social, emotional or academic needs. Some are in foster care. Others have no-show parents. Many don’t have predictability in their life outside of school.
The pair meet once a week for 45 minutes. Students decide what to do from activities such as eating lunch, taking a walk, playing games, reading or doing hands-on experiments. Adults ask questions such as “how are you doing in reading” or “what interests you?”
Felder has a trove of records to monitor progress and track outcomes.
“I quickly noticed a decrease in calls from classrooms to deescalate a child’s behavior,” Davenport said. “It’s remarkable.”
The adults come from a variety of backgrounds — counselor, politician, social worker, doctor, lawyer, business owners and grandparents.
Marc Reynolds is a realtor who lives near the school. He heard through his church Borah needed volunteers. He’s taught his mentee how to play chess, and they talk about sports.
“I never had kids of my own and I wondered if I could make a difference in a child’s life,” he said. “It’s excellent to see a school take a holistic approach to a child’s development. I’m blessed to be a part of it.”
Of Borah’s 384 elementary students, 28 are in this year’s pilot program. Ideally, these children will learn self-efficacy, Felder said.
“We don’t want these kids to grow a victim mentality,” Felder said. “It’s about framing the conversation to be empowering instead of limiting.”
Davenport plans to add more students to the program next year.