The New Horizons Mentor Program serves middle school and high school special-needs youth.
To provide positive role models for special needs and at-risk students, with friendship, guidance, and social/emotional support toward successful preparation for adulthood.
- To ensure that every at-risk student who requests a mentor receives one, suitably matched to his/her personality and disposition.
- To improve the graduation rate.
- To seek community support, providing necessary funding for the mentoring program.
The mentor program at New Horizons Learning Center (NHLC), was born out of pain and compassion. “I lost my husband when my youngest child was only 6,” said Margaret Tidmore, coordinator of the program. “I searched for a male role model to mentor him. I had female relatives, but no males to help.”
Upon retiring in 1998, after working as a paraprofessional with special needs students in Bay District Schools for 16 years, Mrs. Tidmore began substituting at NHLC, a school serving at-risk students. She heard about the Governor Mentoring Initiative launched by the Honorable Jeb Bush. “I saw the need for a mentor program at the school – students in foster care, the lack of fathers in the home, elderly grandparents trying to raise the children, and homelessness. Difficult circumstances made the kids angry, and they needed compassion, love and support.”
After a few trips to Tallahassee, taking notes from leaders speaking about mentoring, and without a model to follow, Margaret simply went out into the local community, found 45 volunteers, and started the mentor program. Gov. Bush came to visit NHLC and Margaret asked him, “Where am I going to get the funding to do what’s needed?” He said, “From the community. Go out there and get the community organizations and businesses involved in helping their own youth.”
Since then, the mentor program has been solely supported by the generosity of local businesses and individuals. Bay County is rich with compassionate, caring business professionals and adults from every walk of life who reach out to help our special-needs youth.
Despite our growing family of mentors and Business Partners, we still find ourselves facing children who ask, “Have you found a mentor for me yet?” It’s heartbreaking to say “No” to a child, or to limit field trips, opportunities and incentive programs for those who need it most.
It doesn’t take much at all to make a difference in our students’ lives which will literally turn their lives around. Students who would otherwise give up are encouraged to graduate high school. They receive encouragement and support from caring, supportive mentors in the community. Their education is enriched with meaningful field trips that teach values which only real life experiences can impart.