It was the speaking engagement and the serious dialogue with the student that spearheaded the founding of the nonprofit in Oct. 1996. The organization’s mission hit on transforming at-risk kids into “responsible residents and on developing leaders of integrity”, Rico-Paredes added.
Brought into schools (and the juvenile court system), the structured mentoring program is for kids aged 8 to 18 that leads them through the application of universal principles starting with respect. Following are integrity, courage, humility, excellence, compassion, enthusiasm, teamwork and honor. Giving back to the community is also a part of the curriculum.
“… it came about because quite frankly given the state of our world and what is going on, our kids were missing out on these various essential understandings that make them productive citizens in our world,” Atlanta Chapter Area Manager Robert Pledger said.
The team of adult mentors remains in the same classroom for the 14-week program. “Joy and celebration are the principles within Teach One to Lead One,” he noted.
Rico-Paredes stated, “Not just mentor them superficially but something that would serve them whether they’re an employee in the workforce or a leadership position. These principles are universal and effective anywhere you go, in any culture, any country.” Beyond that we want to build that relationship for support should it ever be needed, she added. “It oftentimes extends beyond that one semester of mentoring.”
Unlike typical classroom-type lectures, the program is designed around building relationships between and among the mentors and students.
The kids are first exposed to the principles to understand what they are and then are handed some tools to “live it out,” said Pledger.
“A lot of the activities we do and a lot of the questions we ask are open-ended because we want to hear from the students. It gives them the opportunity to build those leadership skills to speak up and share their opinion. We want to create a safe space for our students to feel confident enough to say something,” the delegate said. “We don’t enforce these universal principles on them. We give them a scenario for them to contemplate.”
At the end of each session, the students are asked to live out the principle covered for the next week. Upon their return they are asked to share their stories.
Pledger said, “Is every kid going to change? No, but there is a big percentage that will and the seeds may be planted for the future.”
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