Best Buds: Mentorship Program Forges Friendships Between County Employees and Stafford Students
Posted by Jessica Anderson on 11/14/2022
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” This school year, nearly two dozen Stafford County employees are making good on this philosophy by giving their time and creativity to mentor Stafford students in two of our elementary schools. Through an ongoing collaboration with Stafford Schools known as the Best Buds Program, county employees are given the opportunity to make real differences in the lives of area youth. Launched in 2014 by Stafford County’s Human Services Department, the program was created with a simple objective - to link area students with natural mentors. Recruiting some of the best the county has to offer from across multiple departments (including Human Services, Parks and Recs, Sanitation, and Fire and Rescue), the program has connected 22 mentors to Hartwood and Conway Elementary students for the ‘22-23 school year.
Presently, mentors and mentees meet twice a month in their respective school’s cafeteria. Each session has a theme and activities are centered around this theme. Students and mentors share a snack during their time together, and mentors take the opportunity to get to know the students, encourage them academically and learn more about their personal goals. Emphasis is also placed on improving self-esteem and creating healthy relationships.
Since its initial inception at Conway Elementary nine years ago, the program has expanded to include Hartwood Elementary in 2016 with program leaders hoping to involve more schools in the near future. Program Liaison and Human Services Manager Stephanie Ball describes the program as a “highly successful collaboration,” due largely in part to the unwavering support of principals JR Raybold (Conway) and Brian Raksa (Hartwood). Ball also calls school counselors Lisa Snow (Conway) and Laura Mungo (Hartwood) “champions” of the program, with their collective coordination efforts at the school level empowering the program to run seamlessly and make the greatest impact possible.
Due to the current size of the program, students must currently be referred by school staff. For those looking to become mentors, recruiting takes place in August and requires completion of program paperwork and mentor training. For the greatest impact, there is also a one-year commitment required in order to become a “best bud.” Stafford Schools is deeply committed to fostering the social and emotional well-being of every child. We are proud to partner with the Department of Human Services to bring such a meaningful initiative to our students.
To learn more about the Best Buds Program, please contact the Stafford County Human Services Department at (540) 658-8720.