JOPLIN, Mo. —
The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce is seeking volunteers for TREK: Together Reaching Every Kid, a program that pairs community members with third- through fifth-graders in the Joplin School District for mentoring in communication arts and mathematics.
“The goal is that everybody that needs somebody has somebody,” said Denise Lagore, principal at West Central Elementary School and TREK coordinator for the school district. “Nothing can take the place of TREK.”
Cary Beasley, with the chamber, said the program has been in existence since 2000. Each year, the program averages a little more than 100 volunteers, and organizers would like to take on more to meet the needs of children in the district.
The program runs from the first week in October until March, from 3 to 4 p.m. one day per week. Volunteer mentors may choose which day of the week they are available, and that will dictate the school they are assigned.
“We’re trying to build a foundation for (students) to know the community is behind them and their educational success,” Beasley said.
TREK students normally advance a grade level in reading and sometimes a grade and a half in math, Beasley said, and most go on to be Academic All-Stars in the district. Lagore said attendance rates have improved for TREK students as well.
Peggy Fuller, vice president at Southwest Missouri Bank, is a volunteer mentor with the TREK program. She spent five years mentoring at McKinley Elementary before moving to teach the Emerson Elementary students who were attending school in Duquesne after the 2011 tornado destroyed Emerson.
“I love the TREK program,” Fuller said. “It’s pretty structured. The people who run TREK give workbooks and provide materials you need so you don’t feel you have to have teacher training. You’re just spending an hour with a child who needs some additional help.
“Most years I’ve had fourth-graders. That’s a great age. They’re old enough to be interesting conversationalists, and they usually enjoy having an adult spending time with them one on one.”
Lagore said each school prepares the activities for mentors and students, with everything from flash cards to educational board games to reading passages.
“This relationship starts at elementary school and continues on over years to middle school and high school,” Lagore said. “The TREK kids that are chosen are not always academically struggling. Sometimes they’re the ones that need to make a positive connection with an adult.”
Want to volunteer?
People may call 417-624-4150 or visit the chamber’s website at www.joplincc.com/trek.html for information and an application. All volunteers undergo a background check.