Kindergarten teacher at Treasure Hills Elementary, Jennifer Ramos, smiles as she reminisces about her mentor Shirley Hall. She met Hall through the HOSTS (Helping One Student to Succeed) program in third grade at Travis Elementary.
Mentoring in the HOSTS program, Hall had a lasting impact in the life of Ramos and other students like her. To this day, Ramos keeps a photo of her and Hall, celebrating her UIL medal for poetry reading, on her desk in her classroom as a reminder of how far she’s come.
“If it were not for Mrs. Shirley Hall as a mentor in the HOSTS program when I was in school, I might not be where I am today,” said Ramos. “The one-to-one mentoring helped me master the English Language, learn to read, and develop my self-esteem. Because of this, I graduated from high school and proceeded on to college to pursue a degree in bilingual education.”
A nationally validated program, HOSTS offers a structured academic mentoring platform for academic readiness in reading, math language arts, and/or Spanish language arts. Individualized plans are implemented with the assistance of community adult and student-aged volunteers.
Students are nominated for the program based on test performance and/or teacher recommendation. Once selected, students remain in the program for at least a year in order to monitor their progress.
“The HOSTS program is a prime example of community and educators working together toward a common goal,” said Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos. “In providing our students with resources to thrive academically, we open the doors to countless opportunities for global achievement and increase the likelihood of success for future generations.”
According to Mary Scheopner, HOSTS Coordinator, students that go through the HOSTS program are typically one or two grade levels behind their peers in September, but by the end of the year, 99 percent are at or above grade level.
“This type of program is worth the organization and the planning because it’s so powerful,” said Linda Sheline Stuart Place HOSTS teacher. “All of this would not be possible without the help of our amazing volunteers that work with the children. HOSTS has been very successful here at Stuart, so much so, that we have a waiting list to get in.”
The program has seen volunteers from all walks of life. Current volunteers include retired teachers, Winter Texans, college students, community members, and MMA (Marine Military Academy) cadets.
Sheline hopes to return as a HOSTS volunteer after she retires and hopes that others will do the same, “Anybody can do it; all you need to have is the willingness to help a child.”
HOSTS has helped many of its participants surpass their academic challenges throughout the 37 years that the program has been in place at Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District.
“HOSTS is one of the best Reading/Self-esteem programs that I have ever seen,” said Scheopner. “This one-to-one mentoring program is not only helping children with their reading skills, but also with their self-esteem issues. We see children “blossom” every year into beautiful butterflies when they realize they are reading at or above grade level. Any child or person, for that matter, loves the undivided attention of mentors.”
The program is currently offered at four HCISD schools: Treasure Hills Elementary, Stuart Place Elementary, Rodriguez Elementary, and Bowie Elementary.
Anyone interested in becoming a mentor or wanting to learn more about the HOSTS program in the Harlingen schools, please contact Mary Lorae Scheopner at 956-427-3180.