Travis Peck and Ashley May
PAL Program, Volunteers for Youth, Claremore
Two outstanding individuals were nominated this year as PAL Program Outstanding Mentors: Travis Peck, director of sales and marketing for moreclaremore.com, and Ashley May, managing editor, also at moreclaremore.com. They were nominated by PAL Program Project Director Celina Davis.
Peck has mentored Fuller Stephens, a student at Inola Middle School, for three years. According to Davis, Fuller sought out a consistent male role model. His family was all female, and they tended to move often, so establishing relationships was difficult for him. In fact, according to Davis, the youth began their first meeting with, “So, what’s your favorite sport and who’s your favorite sports team?”
“There could have been trouble,” Davis added, “when Peck’s answer was ‘OU all the way,’ seeing as Travis is a diehard Cowboy who bleeds orange.” Happily, the youth took his to-be mentor’s response on as a challenge, and a friendly rivalry ensued. “Three years and several moves and school changes later, and Travis is still with Fuller, and Bedlam is continuous,” Davis quipped.
Davis lauded Peck for giving so freely of his time to the organization because, she says, “trying to get penciled into his busy schedule is prime real estate.”
In addition to mentoring Fuller, Peck has participated in several brainstorming sessions with their program director to find ways to improve community outreach, raise more funds and reach more men to serve as mentors. At one local recruiting event, he pulled in nine prospective male mentors.
Davis believes that one of the most important things Peck has taught his mentee concerns the importance, and rewards, of giving back. To this end, she observes, this “dynamic duo” created a “house divided” chair (OU vs. OSU) and a Thunder basketball-themed chair for the organizations’ annual “Chair-ity Auction” fundraiser.
May has mentored Gracie Sitsler, a student at Westside Elementary School in Claremore, for two years. Though May denies any great talent in this area, she enjoys working with her mentee in her favorite activity: crafts. However, the mentor is improving with the help of her mentee.
When Gracie was in first grade, Davis says, May – a keen observer – recognized that the child was having difficulty with basic sight words and other standard work. By alerting the program director and speaking with the school counselor and her teacher, May was able to intervene in a timely manner.
When May went to visit Gracie at school following summer break, she was uncertain the child would even remember her, Davis says. However, she need not have worried. “The instant Gracie saw her in the office, she leapt into her arms to give her a huge hug.”
Fortuitously, the moment was captured on camera, and subsequently posted on social media, along with a heartfelt plea for more members of the community to volunteer as mentors. “This single photo and heartfelt plea has propelled our program forward more than any other outreach efforts we’ve done this year,” Davis points out.
About the Program: The PAL Program is a school-based mentoring program that matches Rogers County public school students with a caring adult mentors. Each mentor strives to be the student’s friend, role model, motivator and personal advocate. The mentor’s purpose is to build self-esteem, confidence and self-worth in the student while building a friendship.