Mentors can help young students avoid dropping out later in life

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When students who drop out of school are asked why they quit, one of the most common responses is "no one cared." it's a big problem here in south Carolina, and affects all of us because statistically, dropouts will likely earn smaller paychecks, have children while they're still in their teens or end up behind bars.

An effective solution is something we can all do, and it doesn't cost a thing --  be a mentor.

Tehillah Lewis, 8, looks forward to every other Thursday when she hangs out with her Lunch buddy!

Mary Pat Baldauf and Tehillah have been buddies since September. During their visits, the second-grader shows off her projects and schools Mary Pat on what they're up to in class.

"We get to know each other more every time I come and when we first come we do little books about each other," said Baldauf. "She gave me a book about her and I gave her a book about me, but we still learn stuff all the time about each other."

Tehillah, who wants to be a soccer player when she grows up, loves having some girl time. "We talk about school and we talk about other things," she said. "We read books together and we color. She's very fun and I love to spend time with her."

That time can be more special than you. When Mary Pat mentored her first student, she thought things were getting off to a rough start because the little boy was really quiet.

"One day he said to me, 'my mother has short hair like you' and I said 'well she must be really cool if she's got short hair' and he said 'it's even shorter than yours' and I said 'she must be super hip' and he said, 'no, she has cancer,'" said Baldauf. "I thought I couldn't bring anything to him, and I still get a little teared up but my father was ill and we talked about how hard it is to have a parent who's sick."

The only thing you need to be a good mentor is to show you care. "I have a great time and hopefully the kids have a good time," said Baldauf.

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