NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In the North Little Rock School District, data shows an increase in violence and learning loss among its students.
The district says positive role models are needed now more than ever as they’ve seen a rise in behavior issues and a decline in academic achievement.
And the numbers show kids as young as 6th and 7th grades are getting involved in gang activity and more high schoolers are using drugs.
But here’s the good news: in less than a month, 260 people from the community have stepped up to say they want to help.
With declining enrollment, most children living in poverty and being raised in single-parent homes, the NLRSD knows it has a tough road ahead.
“And we know we need the community to come in and help us,” said Crystal Barker, Parent and Family Community Engagement Coordinator with NLRSD.
And they’re determined to do something about it.
“One positive relationship can change a child’s life,” Barker said.
This is where the district’s adult-youth mentoring program comes in.
“It’s getting traction because I think the community and people are seeing you know what? Let me be a part of the solution,” Barker said.
In less than a month, 260 people like Joey Piwetz have signed on to help turn things around.
“The community does care, and the community does want to see a change,” Piwetz said.
He wants to help because he doesn’t think there are enough male role models for kids in NLRSD.
“I think that’s very crucial for their development and to men,” Piwetz said. “It’s very hard to become men if you’re not taught by a man.”
“We’re seeing more of our discipline concerns in our males,” Barker said.
And with 8,000 students in the district, Barker said they’ll take all the mentors they can get.
“If I had my wishes, every student would have a mentor,” she said. “We’re looking for more. More, more, more. The more, the merrier.”
The district will be starting a Dads on Duty chapter very soon and they encourage any male, not just dads, to help.
They’ll also be starting Moms on a Mission.
If you want to be a part of this growing movement, call Crystal Barker at 501-771-8013 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.