Students find support in mentors’ honesty, experience
LifeSaver Outreach is most commonly called the “You Go Girl!” mentoring program because it’s all about women’s empowerment — specifically about planting that seed of self confidence at a young age.
Port Arthur students in LifeSaver Outreach say it’s a comfort — and slightly intimidating — to know so many adult women, 15 between the mentors and Director Terri Prescott, are standing behind them.
Terri said the girls come to the program by signing themselves up, being recommended through the Port Arthur Independent School District and through Bob Hope, or — in more extreme cases — being court ordered to attend and graduate the program to avoid moving into an alternative education center.
Kari’Aysha, an 11th grader at Memorial High School, and Diana, a ninth grader at Bob Hope, were both ordered to join LifeSaver Outreach two months after going to court for truancy. Terri advised the students to withhold their last names.
The girls said they started the program begrudgingly, but have since opened their hearts to the lessons their mentors are teaching every Tuesday at Memorial High School.
“I got here because I had 22 absences in two classes and six whole days of absences,” Kari’Aysha said after the group mentoring session last week. “I’ve been working on my attitude, going to all my classes and counseling every other Tuesday after this class.
“Every Tuesday, we have a different speaker. We can stay in the program as long as we want to, as long as we feel like we could still improve. Sometimes I can be mean and have a nasty attitude, but I’m working on improving that ever day.”
Diana said on top of regularly being late to class, she had six full days of absences and 12 absences in one class.
“I was skipping class and going into someone else’s class,” she said. “There are some classes I actually like and learn in, but I would skip the ones I didn’t think I needed or I wasn’t getting anything out of. My school’s tiny, so I couldn’t just walk off campus.”
Kari’Aysha said she enjoys the diversity of the speakers who volunteer as LifeSaver Outreach mentors. Their honesty is what prompted her to start becoming more of an active mentee, she said.
“They tell us to learn from their mistakes instead of making our own,” Diana said. “They talk about loving ourselves and not just going with what people tell us to do. I really liked today’s speaker (mentor Cynthia Lorder).”
“Yeah, today’s was all about learning to love ourselves for who we are,” Kari’Aysha added. “But they talk to us about all kinds of things — substance abuse, sex, abstinence, lessons from different experiences they’ve had.”
Kari’Aysha and Diana said they want to continue the program at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year if they haven’t fully improved by the time school gets out in June.
“I think I’ll come back either way,” Diana said. “It’s interesting, and it helps me with myself. They talk about being a better person and trying to make better what you are instead of staying in the same spot your whole life.”
Kari’Aysha said she mainly wants to continue her counseling sessions, supplied by In Need Christian Counseling — funded through sponsors, donations and a one-time registration fee of $25.
“When I first got here, I was shy,” she said. “But every Tuesday, you get to see the same faces — you eventually start talking. I get counseling every other Tuesday now, and I can see an improvement in me. My mom can, too.”
“I think, though, all girls our age should come to the program,” Diana added. “It’s not just to keep you here because you had to go to court or because you’ve gotten ‘in trouble.’ Whether you’ve made mistakes or not, you actually get something out of it. That’s actually a big part of the program — learning to forgive yourself and always aim higher, better.”
Kari’Aysha said she encourages any middle or high school girl in Port Arthur to call Terri and ask more about LifeSaver Outreach.
“It’s only $25 to sign up — and you get a whole team of people supporting you, doing everything they can to help you. Not many people would do that for girls they’ve never met, but these (women) do,” she said.
For more information, call Terri at (409) 549-8781.