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Park Crest Mentor Program Grows

Dec. 12, 2019


At-risk students at Park Crest Middle School are getting additional resources thanks to a mentor program offered at the school. In its second year, Project Jamii has more than 50 students matched with mentors to help guide them or provide a listening ear.

Jamii is a Swahili word that is pronounced jah-MEE-ah and means community and family. And that is what Park Crest Principal Zachary Kleypas and Dr. Luther Baker are hoping to build through this program. 

Baker is a parent liaison at Park Crest and oversees the mentor program. Baker said he has seen the success it has had on students already and believes getting members of the community involved can give the at-risk students another positive example to follow.

“To affect change you have to participate,” Baker said. “We want to partner with our community and bring their experiences to campus. We want to instill the character that makes men and women successful.” 

A middle school student can be considered at-risk for any one of a 12 indicators by the state. To qualify to be a mentee in Project Jamii, a student must meet at least one of these factors. The most common factors impacting at-risk students at Park Crest are: student who have been unsuccessful academically, struggle to connect with peers or adults, have difficulties with meeting campus expectations, have challenging home lives or past experiences, or simply students who could benefit from another adult role model checking in on them, setting goals, and, most importantly, ensuring they feel visible and valued. 

Getting students and community members to participate in the mentor program is just another way that Park Crest attempts to live by its motto every day, according to Principal Zachary Kleypas. 

“Our mission here at Park Crest is not only to educate our students but to develop good people. Our motto here is Keep Improving. Always. In All Ways,” he said. “I’m proud of what our kids have accomplished but this is a chance to do even more.”

Travis County Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion is in his second year as a mentor in Project Jamii and believes in the program because it helps to lift up students who may be struggling with any number of issues, and that a mentor can be the outlet they need to begin the process of believing in themselves. 

“What we really need is time and caring for the children we have the privilege to serve. What we have as mentors have is an opportunity to create a special place,” Travillion said. “It’s important we take time to make children understand they are capable of a lot.”

Mentors are asked to meet on-campus at least once a month with their mentee in order to develop a relationship with the student.

As students on campus have seen their peers participate in Project Jamii, more are coming forward asking to be part of it and find a mentor to help them navigate their hurdles, which in return, requires more volunteers to serve. To inquire about becoming a mentor in Project Jamii, email Luther.Baker@pfisd.net.