PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)– January is National Mentoring Month, and the 2021-2022 academic year has presented new challenges for teachers, staff and students, and one local membership group is working to support teachers and students, but they need your help to do it.

The Elevate Bay Mentorship Initiative, through Bay District Schools, pairs a mentor match with “at-risk” students, and classrooms in need of a helping hand, to keep children on track with their academic and social development, according to the District.

Stacey Legg, mentor initiative specialist, said Elevate Bay will hold another orientation session Feb. 1st, starting at 9:30 a.m. in the Nelson Building, for community members interested in becoming a mentor.

This is one of two opportunities left to become a mentor in for this school year.

“There are both group and one-on-one mentor options are available, and volunteers will be required to spend at least 30 minutes, two times per month, at their assignment,” Legg said.

The program has expanded across to all grade levels, so anyone can help at any age level.

However, Legg said those interested must sign-up ahead of the orientation session to secure a spot.

Those who want to attend the orientation can visit Elevate Bay on Facebook and send a message to the account, or email Legg at leggsl@bay.k12.fl.us or by calling 850-767-4128.

Legg also explained that mentorship goes beyond school studies.

“You don’t have to be great at math to be a mentor, these kids sometimes simply need a friend who is in their corner, that’s what it’s all about,” Legg said.

The need for mentors is great in the community, explained Dr. Pamela Stark, an administrator at Cherry Street Elementary.

“There is a waiting list of children at every school that need a mentor. Some of these children, especially our second graders, have yet to experience a true normal school year with Hurricane Michael and then the pandemic,” Stark explained.

Mentors said the feeling of giving back is rewarding and it’s simple to do.

Tony Dutcher, a mechanical engineer at Eastern Shipbuilding gives up one lunch hour to be a mentor to a class.

“It’s such a positive experience to show kids how rewarding a career in engineering can be, and the importance of getting a high school degree which can lead to a well paying job,” Dutcher said.

Brad Tunnell, said he started being a mentor at Cherry Street Elementary to be more involved with school his son Silas attends.

“It’s very satisfying and rewarding, especially when you find out how many kids need a mentor and someone to help push them along,” Tunnell said.