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Los Hermanos: helping a new generation

By: Evan Rendes Special to The News Messenger
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“This is the best year I’ve had by far,” stated Jeaninne Kato, a fourth-grade teacher at First Street Elementary School. What Kato is referring to is the overall attendance, skill level, and commitment level of this school year’s Lincoln Hermanos Mentors from Lincoln High School. Started in 2005 by Kato, the Lincoln Hermanos Mentors is a group of young Latino men who visit First Street Elementary to tutor and mentor at-risk boys. “These are kids whose parents maybe aren’t home a lot or maybe they’re falling behind. It is nice to have an older student who’s a positive influence,” stated 11th-grade Miguel Avila. Avila was taught English by Kato when he was in elementary school. A teacher’s legacy ripples in time. Avila currently works with a boy from Mexico, named Angel who could only speak Spanish. Now, thanks to Avila’s help, Angel practices at school and at home. “It is difficult for teachers to give their students one-on-one attention.” Avila said. “With newer and more difficult state standards to overcome, some kids can get left behind.” Each mentor is assigned a specific boy struggling in school or who simply needs a push in the right direction. Cindy Snodgrass, a fifth-grade teacher, talked about the impact “Los Hermanos” has made. “I think it does make a difference. Especially in years past when the kids were more troubled, they actually started emulating the older role model’s good behavior,” Snodgrass said. “It is nice to have someone beside the teacher to help them.” In years past. “Los Hermanos” was an experiment. College scholarships, in exchange for quality mentoring time, sounded great in theory but spreading the word to Lincoln High was difficult at first. With the help of our counselor Susan Valdez, “Los Hermanos” took off as an elective style class with the title of “Cross Age Tutor.” Attendance was set up to be regular and each mentor had to provide their own transportation as they do now. Even though scholarships are available to the mentors who have shown and maintained a good GPA, are a positive influence, and attend regularly, it is not a paid job. It takes compassion and dedication to keep high school mentors returning. “We have always had a hard time getting them to return in the past but this year’s dedication has been great,” Kato said. Helping out this early-age group has given hope to the future and has enriched the lives of young students. Evan Rendes is a Lincoln High School senior and is Zebra Tales editor-in-chief.