Volunteers tackle tough subjects with students; more help sought

Volunteers tackle tough subjects with students; more help sought

FARMER CITY — Talking to kids about tough subjects like divorce and peer pressure can be difficult, but two local women are up to the challenge.

Tina Jamison of Bellflower and Melissa Godbee of Mansfield are gearing up for another year as volunteers in the BABES Program. And they're hoping more people will decide to join them.

BABES (Beginning Awareness Basic Education Studies) focuses on prevention education and is designed to help children develop positive living skills.

BABES volunteers use puppets to tell stories and teach kids important lessons about a variety of topics, from alcohol and drugs to bullying.

Godbee and Jamison primarily work with second- and third-graders at Schneider Elementary in Farmer City but they did help implement a new program at Mansfield Elementary last year that targeted the older students.

Jamison, who has been a BABES volunteer for 12 years, says the best part of the program for her is the interaction she gets with the students.

"That's the biggest paycheck of all. (The students) get it and you build a relationship with them," Jamison said. "It's easy to be passionate about something like this because you are possibly making a difference in a kid's life."

She also feels good that the lessons she's teaching stick with the students long after the presentation.

Although some of the topics are difficult to discuss at times, Jamison says it's worth it if it helps even one student. "Sometimes you think this is a little more than these kids need to hear but we've had situations where one or two kids in the classroom really needed to hear that information." she said.

Godbee, who has been volunteering with the program for about seven years, agrees equipping the younger students with good decision-making skills is a worthwhile cause.

"All these kids are our future. We care about them," Godbee said.

Godbee also enjoys knowing so many of the kids in the district, thanks to her involvement with BABES. "I like knowing the kids. We have a good relationship." Godbee said.

Both admit they might mess up the script every now and then but it's still fun and the kids really enjoy the puppets and stories.

Sandy Laesch, BABES program coordinator, says she couldn't have two better volunteers.

"They are wonderful. They are so fully invested," she said.

Laesch says they are hoping to do more this year and help as many children as they can with issues they are facing these days.

Laesch feels the program does make a difference and has recei- ved thank-you notes from students that reinforce her belief.

"You know you're making a difference when a child says, 'I know it's not my fault that my parents drink or that my parents are divorced,'" Laesch said.

Laesch said more volunteers are always needed for BABES, which is one of many programs of Dove Inc. based in Decatur.

Volunteers would need to commit to serving two hours a week for six to seven weeks during the school day.A five-hour training session for new volunteers will begin the second week of October. Anyone interested should contact Laesch at 217-428-6616 or email her at slaesch@doveinc.org.

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