Academy 4 provides mentors to local fourth graders to help strengthen relationships between schools, families, churches and communities across Texas.
Our childhood experiences have the power to shape who we are for the rest of our lives. Research shows that pre-adolescence in particular is a crucial time in a child’s healthy development.
This is why members of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fort Worth, Texas, decided to focus on fourth graders when they set out to help local public schools in 2012. The church members partnered with the vice principal, counselor and fourth grade teachers at Daggett Elementary to create an effective mentorship program that later became Academy 4.
Safe, supportive relationships
The team at Academy 4 believes that mentoring is the most effective tool to provide children with a greater sense of self-worth and a positive view of the future. Having a supportive and consistent relationship with an adult outside of their immediate family provides children with a safe place to talk, learn and build trust.
“I want to set an example for kids in my community that they can start their own business or do whatever it is they’re interested in.”
– Troy Tuomey, Branch Owner at TWFG Insurance Services
When Troy Tuomey, branch owner at TWFG Insurance Services, learned about Academy 4 and its work in the community, he thought what better way to make an impact on a young person’s life than to become a mentor. It’s always been important to Tuomey that his agency gives back to the community and joining forces with Academy 4 seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that.
“I want to set an example for kids in my community that they can start their own businesses or do whatever it is they’re interested in,” said Tuomey. “We talk about their hopes and dreams, but we also just have a lot of fun together!”
Every mentor counts
Academy 4’s mentorship format is simple yet effective. Every month, mentors from the community meet one-on-one with their fourth graders for 90 minutes. Mentors work through research-backed curriculum that teaches mentees a new leadership trait each month – such as listening, encouragement and respect. There are also opportunities for unstructured “hang time” for playing games, making art and chatting.
“Participation from local businesses like TWFG Insurance Services makes all the difference. Every mentor counts!”
– Terrence Butler, Vice President of Development at Academy 4
It’s foundational to the program that every student in the class has their own mentor. To make this happen, Academy 4 partners with churches, high schools, universities, businesses and community groups to recruit the large number of volunteers needed for the dozens of fourth grade classes in the program.
“We are proud to serve 3,000 students across 40 schools,” said vice president of development Terrence Butler. “Participation from local businesses like TWFG Insurance Services makes all the difference. Every mentor counts!”
Growing toward the future
A $10,000 Make More Happen Award from Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance would allow Academy 4 to hire more program staff, purchase more curriculum materials and expand into additional elementary schools.