Baylor Buddies mentors find ways to continue serving during pandemic

Serving K-12 at-risk students is a continued priority for the Baylor Buddies mentorship program. Photo courtesy of Baylor Buddies

Erianne Lewis | Staff Writer

Baylor Buddies is a student-led organization that mentors local at-risk elementary, middle and high school students. The organization was founded in 1984 by a Baylor student named Buddy Norman.

Allen senior Adrianna Mims, co-director of Baylor Buddies, said the main focus of the group is to be a friend and trustworthy adult figure in a child’s life in order to lead them on the path toward success.

“We are just added support and we just seek to create meaningful relationships between mentors, mentees and Waco organizations,” Mims said. “We just want to see every child meet their full potential.”

According to the Texas Education Agency, 70.7% of Waco ISD students were considered at risk of dropping out of school in the 2018-2019 school year.

Shiner junior Greta Grosenbacher, communications chair, said the dropout risk is one of the biggest problems Baylor Buddies works to combat.

“The main goal is to provide at-risk students with a positive relationship and to really be a friend to these amazing kids,” Grosenbacher said. “We work with Communities in Schools (CIS) to match Waco ISD students with Baylor students for tutoring or mentoring.”

To do this, Baylor buddies meet their mentees once a week at their respective schools to talk, play board games, draw, color or play sports with them. Unfortunately, the organization has been greatly impacted by COVID-19 guidelines because of their reliance on in-person schooling, Grosenbacher said.

Grosenbacher said the meetings for Baylor Buddies have been converted to an online format and visits to schools are no longer an option.

Mims said, however, that Baylor Buddies members have still found ways to continue forming relationships with their mentees, despite social distancing guidelines.

“Our mentors have been so awesome and proactive in finding unique solutions to still engage with their mentees,” Mims said.

Still adhering to Baylor COVID-19 restrictions, members made holiday goodie bags for their mentees and have delivered small gifts to the students.

Though, Grosenbacher said, ultimately the health of the mentees is of utmost importance.

“There are a lot of at-risk kids that are also very at-risk for COVID-19 complications because of various demographic factors, and we do not want to exacerbate this issue,” Grosenbacher said. “Because of this, most Baylor Buddies members have not been able to meet with their mentee in person for a while.”

Grosenbacher said she is most concerned about how the mentees are coping with not being able to contact their mentor during this time.

“For some of them, it can be a really important relationship, especially during stressful times like these,” Grosenbacher said. “I’m hoping that CIS can at least figure out a consistent virtual option for continuing mentoring during Covid sometime soon.”