Paige Fierbaugh, a Senior at the University of Georgia and a mentor for the Clarke County Mentoring Program, said “This program has been the best decision I have made in college. It takes one person to make a difference in a child’s life and that one person was me.” Fierbaugh became a positive role model in her mentee’s life and a part of the Clarke County Mentoring program over three years ago. She stated that she was drawn to come back year after year because she knew that having someone consistently in her mentee’s life would make her mentee feel secure, safe and happy. “I know she does not have a constant home life and I wanted to be that someone who was continuing to be in her life,” said Fierbaugh.
The Clarke County Mentoring Program is not just a program to get involved with at the University of Georgia, rather it is an opportunity to make an everlasting impact in a child’s life, said Paula Shilton, the Executive of the Clarke County Mentoring Program. The partnership between the Clarke County School District and the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce began with only 30 mentors working with students within seven schools. Today, the program boasts hundreds of mentors in every public school to encourage positive choices and promote high self-esteem within the students of Clarke County.
According to Fierbaugh, she first met her mentee when she was in 3rd grade. She is now in the fifth grade and Fierbaugh continued, “Since then she has grown a lot in height and she has grown a great deal emotionally. I used to only be greeted with a wave and a nod, but now I’m greeted with a huge hug and a smile.”
The Clarke County Mentoring Instagram and Facebook page gave Fierbaugh and her mentee a shout out for sharing the mentoring experience for all three years and honored Fierbaugh with the Mentor of the Week Award. The post also thanked Fierbaugh for all that she has done for the program.
Fierbaugh shared that she will always remember the day she met her mentee. “At the end of our visit I told her that I would be back the next Wednesday and her face lit up. It meant the world to her that I was going to come and spend time with her for an hour once a week and that is exactly why I keep doing it.”
Feirbaugh strongly encourages everyone to take the next step if considering participating in the Clarke County Mentoring Program. “The Clarke County Mentoring Program has allowed me to gain a life-long relationship and I hope to be able to see her when I come back after graduation and catch up with her and continue to push her to be the best she can be.”
Executive Director of the Clarke County Mentoring Program, Paula Shilton, stated “To become a mentor for the Clarke County Mentoring Program, you don’t need any special skills, just an ability to listen and to offer friendship, guidance and encouragement to a young person. You’ll be amazed by how much you’ll get out of the experience.”
Paige Fierbaugh said that mentoring has taught her how much love and support that students in the Athens community need. “As a future teacher, it has been eye-opening to see how just spending a little bit of individualized time with her has allowed her to open up. She loves me and I love her too.”