OFE News Release
Whiz Kids Supporter, Mentor Pam Ball to be Honored During National Mentoring Month
January 2, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY – Edmond resident Pam Ball, a former site coordinator and longtime supporter of City Care’s Whiz Kids Mentoring Program, will be honored as an outstanding mentor on “Thank Your Mentor Day,” Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the State Capitol.
|Pam Ball (left), a longtime volunteer with City Care’s Whiz Kids, meets at the State Capitol rotunda with her mentee Audrianna. Ball will be among those honored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence on “Thank Your Mentor Day” Jan. 25 at the State Capitol.|
Ball will be honored as one of two runners up for the David and Molly Boren Mentoring Award presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its David and Molly Boren Mentoring Initiative. The awards ceremony, which recognizes outstanding mentors from across the state, is being held in conjunction with National Mentoring Month in January.
Whiz Kids is a faith-based, one-on-one volunteer tutoring and mentoring program that serves first- through eighth-grade students living in areas of Oklahoma City with high drop-out rates and low socioeconomic levels. The program is preventive in nature, targeting inner-city schools and students who are reading below grade level and who could benefit most from a relationship with a caring adult mentor.
Ball, who had been involved in prison ministries, knew that mentoring could help break the cycle of poverty and self-destructive choices that have led many Oklahomans on the path to prison. So more than 10 years ago, she volunteered to be the Whiz Kids site coordinator at her church, Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, which served students at North Highland Elementary School. Students would come to the church weekly after school to meet with a volunteer mentor and work on improving reading skills.
“I loved knowing we were making an impact both on individual kids and in the community around where our church is located,” Ball said.
As an administrative site coordinator, Ball was not able to serve as a mentor to a specific child, but she became very close to many of the girls in the program. When Ball stepped down as site coordinator several years ago she and some other Whiz Kids tutors decided to form an informal mentoring group for students who had graduated from Whiz Kids but still needed one-to-one support and encouragement.
Volunteers in the small group continued to read with the students, took them swimming, gave them sewing lessons, invited them to church, cooked together, and celebrated birthdays and other special occasions. “Over the years, we have built enough trust for them to feel safe with us,” Ball said. “They’ve share some very personal things; and we’ve seen them set goals and achieve those goals.”
Audrianna, 14, who has been paired with Ball for more than five years, said Ball helped her improve her reading skills and has been there to encourage her through thick and thin.
“Miss Pam is the awesomest mentor I ever had,” Audrianna said. “When I get mad and can’t express myself, she is there for me. She’s there when I need to talk about my problems, and she always puts a smile on my face.”
Ball said she encourages Audrianna and her other mentees to discover their unique gifts and talents and to grow and enrich those gifts and talents so they can, in turn, make an impact in the world. Last summer, Audrianna traveled to Hershey, Pa., to compete in a track meet and placed fifth nationally. In recognition of her national honor, she received a commendation from Oklahoma City Mayor Nick Cornett.
“I believe when children are born, they come into this life with a ‘backpack’ of gifts and talents already there,” Ball said. “It’s our job as parents, teachers and mentors to help them call forth and develop those gifts.”
Through her years as a site coordinator, mentor and supporter of Whiz Kids, Ball has seen students improve in reading and school performance. She has seen them develop better manners and social skills and boost their self esteem.
“I’ve seen their countenance lifted, their heads lifted,” she said. “I’ve seen them get so excited to get together (with a mentor).”
Ball continues to support the Whiz Kids program as a volunteer, donor and recruiter. “Pam has influenced so many other people in her life – friends, fellow church members and others – to become involved with Whiz Kids,” said Whiz Kids Director Masie Bross. “Her unflagging faith in the power of making a difference one child at a time is an inspiration to many.”
Audrianna said she thinks all young people deserve to have a mentor in their lives, and she hopes more adults will volunteer to mentor.
“It’s like having a best friend by your side to listen to you when things go wrong,” the ninth-grader said. “A lot of kids need one person in their life to talk to them and listen. If somebody doesn’t do it (volunteer), who will?”
The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization founded in 1985 by then-U.S. Sen. Boren, recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. In 2005, the foundation launched the Boren Mentoring Initiative to promote the growth and development of school-based mentoring statewide. The initiative grew out of Boren’s own commitment to mentoring and the proven impact that mentoring can have on a student’s success in and out of the classroom.