The local America’s Promise program kicked off its 2013-14 year Thursday afternoon with a visit to the Great Bend Raptor Center at Brit Spaugh Zoo and a meeting for parents.
America’s Promise is a national mentoring program involving a “big brother big sister concept,” said Susie Guenther. She is with the Great Bend Police Department and helps coordinate the activities.
“Building on the legacy of the founder of the America’s Promise Alliance, General Colin Powell, we are committed to the children in our communities,” she said. The five promises of the program are caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education, and opportunities to help others.
“We are into our 14th year,” Guenther said. Three students from each of the Great Bend elementary schools and two from the two elementary schools in Ellinwood are selected to participate. The students must be in either the third or fourth grade and are picked by the principal and teachers each year.
In addition, they are mentors from the Great Bend High School and Barton Community College that help with each event and serve in the role as a big brother or sister.
The mentors take the students on an event once a month throughout the school year. These include such things as a visit to the Brit Spaugh zoo, the Healing Hearts Ranch, cosmic bowling at Walnut Bowling Center, a Walmart Christmas shopping event, a chamber of coffee event hosted by Community Bank, swimming at Club 1 Fitness, a trip to Thompson’s Gymnastics, an afternoon at the Fire Station 2, a trip to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, and an airplane ride in May sponsored by Great Planes Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1134.
“The students have a great time,” Guenther said “And it allows them to interact with a group of caring high school and college students and caring adult mentors.”
But, its about more than having fun, said GBPD officer Jefferson Davis. He is the school liaison officer and youth coordinator.
It’s a chance, he said, for the youngsters to hang out with older kids who provide who serve as positive roll models. This was clear Thursday afternoon as the mentors paired up with the kids at the zoo for the various activities.
Program sponsors include Community Bank of the Midwest, Great Bend Police Department, the Barton County Health Department, the Great Bend Fire Department, the City of Great Bend and Barton County Community College.