By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma’s Coaches’ Mentoring Challenge is a statewide campaign among secondary school and college coaches to encourage sports fans to mentor young people in their communities. Now underway, nearly 400 coaches have endorsed the third of these annual campaigns, which will run through November 30.
Leading the challenge is Oklahoma State University Coach Mike Gundy and University of Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops in partnership with state mentoring organizations and the Boren Mentoring Initiative, a program of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.
In 2014, 3,340 Oklahomans signed up to mentor. The number jumped to 3,821 in 2015. This year, organizers hope to build on that momentum by recruiting more than 4,000 mentors for Oklahoma youths.
In 2008, the Coaches’ Mentoring Challenge began as a friendly competition between mentoring advocates Coach Tom Osborne of the University of Nebraska and Coach Bill Snyder at Kansas State University.
Since then, coaches from universities, colleges and secondary schools around the country have gotten involved.
“Coaches know firsthand the impact that a mentor can have in building skills, confidence and character in our young people,” said Beverly Woodrome, director of the Boren Mentoring Initiative, which helps coordinate the statewide mentoring campaign.
“By endorsing the Mentoring Challenge, they are sending a message that they value mentoring and see a critical need for more volunteer mentors for kids in their schools and communities.”
Coaches can sign up to endorse the challenge at www.okcoacheschallenge.org.
According to MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, it is estimated that one in three Oklahoma children are in need of a mentor – someone to listen, to encourage and to set a positive example for them.
In a survey of state mentoring organizations, the Boren Mentoring Initiative found that the greatest challenge facing mentoring programs was a shortage of volunteers,
“We need grassroots support from across the state to make this campaign a success for Oklahoma kids,” Woodrome added.
The Boren Mentoring Initiative, named for Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence founder and chairman David L. Boren and his wife, Molly, grew out of Boren’s own commitment to mentoring and the proven impact it can have on a student’s success in and out of the classroom.
The initiative was launched in 2006 to promote the growth and development of quality youth mentoring programs statewide. It has resulted in a directory of more than 160 mentoring partner organizations statewide and works with those organizations to offer resources and to promote good mentoring practices.
All Oklahoma mentoring programs are invited to join its network free of charge.
The initiative provides free consulting and resources for groups seeking to create new mentoring programs. It also hosts Oklahoma Mentor Day honoring outstanding mentors, which is set for Friday, January 13. The event is free, but online registration is required and will be open this fall.
Woodrome’s blog, The Oklahoma Mentor, provides a searchable database of mentoring ideas and best practices. In it she writes, “We are happy to meet with schools, churches, businesses and others interested in starting a mentoring program in their community,”
The CMC website provides promotional ideas and resources to help mentoring organizations recruit volunteers.
“Through a statewide survey of mentoring organizations, we found that the most positive program outcomes were improved academic performance, positive mentor-mentee relationships, improved behavior, increased self-esteem and greater enrichment opportunities for participating youth,” Woodrome added.
Oklahoma City coaches supporting the Coaches Mentoring Challenge include: Richie Henderson, head girls’ basketball coach, Bishop McGuiness High School; Steve Hernandez, softball and golf coach, Capitol Hill High School; Jack Dingus, football, powerlifting, track coach, Crooked Oak High School; Mark Busick, cross country and track coach, Harding Charter Prep; Chris Winstead, baseball coach, John Marshall High School; Shantel Leonard, volleyball and track coach, Millwood Public Schools; Derrick Hightower, girls’ basketball coach, Millwood Public Schools; Londaryl Perry, girls’ basketball coach, Millwood High School; Nicholas Henderson, football coach, Millwood Public Schools; Darwin Franklin, football coach, Millwood Public Schools; Willie Batson, football, basketball and baseball coach, Millwood High School; LaToya Jackson, softball coach, Millwood Public Schools; Matthew Black, football coach, Millwood Public Schools; Edward King, football, Northwest Classen High School; David Raupe, football coach, Putnam City North High School; Dale Pearson, baseball coach, Putnam City North High School; Robert T. Walker, football, wrestling and track coach, Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Academy; Brian Sexton, football coach, Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Academy; Curtis Thompson, girls’ basketball coach and athletic director, Southeast High School; Melissa Bullen, softball and cheer coach, Southeast High School; Dan Burgess, football and tennis coach, Western Heights High School; James McMahon, cross country and track coach, Western Heights High School.
For the complete list of coaches who have already endorsed the Coaches Mentoring Challenge, or to volunteer, contact Beverly Woodrome at 405-236-0006 or [email protected]. For more information, visit www.okcoacheschallenge.org.