Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Schriever Sentinel

Schriever makes a difference at Peyton Elementary

Senior Airman Latoya Harper, a satellite operator from the 4th Space Operations Squadron, and Alayah Nelson, a student at Peyton Elementary, sound out some words on a homework paper Monday. Airmen from Schriever Air Force Base have recently started a mentorship program at the school. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys)

By Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys

50th Space Wing Public Affairs

PEYTON, Colo. — Peyton Elementary School lies tucked away in the town of the school’s namesake, roughly 20 miles away from the nearest military base. Until recently, the hope of having military members mentor students there had begun to fade.

Things changed for the school Jan. 22, when, for the first time, Schriever Airmen drove to the school with hopes of changing the lives of the students there.

The school mentorship program was the brainchild of Master Sgt. Chad Smith, from the 4th Space Operations Squadron, whose wife works at the elementary school. The school’s principal approached him with the idea and he decided to go through the process of getting the program approved and organized.

For Staff Sgt. Benjamin Connery, one of the volunteers, the mentorship opportunity was right on target.

“I have personally wanted to get into a mentoring program for a while, but didn’t know where to start or how to fit it in my work schedule,” he said. “When Master Sergeant Smith approached me with this program it was what I had been looking for. Honestly, in regards to the impacts to the kids’ lives, I know it’s a step in the right direction.”

Connery spent his first visit explaining school subjects in a way his student could understand so that later, he would better accomplish homework on his own.

“I really saw this kid as a perfect fit for me because he seems to be going through things I went through at his age,” he said. “I think this program doesn’t only help the kids, but the mentors as well.”

Although the mentorship from Schriever has only been going on for two weeks, positive impact is already noticed.

“The Schriever Airmen who have come out to Peyton Elementary are wonderful role models for our students,” said Cheryl McDougal, the school’s social worker. “The help our students receive is invaluable, not only with schoolwork, but the Airmen’s mentorships are an added bonus for our students. It is wonderful to see the student’s faces light up when the Airmen arrive in their classrooms, it is obvious that the student are excited and look forward to the Airmen’s weekly visits.”

Senior Airman Latoya Harper knows all about that excited look since she began mentoring Alayah Nelson, a 10-year-old student Jan. 28. The two spent an hour together working to improve math and reading skills. Nelson seemed eager to perform.

“It’s more than just being a mentor to Alayah. She has just opened up so much in the short time that I have known her, and watching her face light up when we walk into the classroom is the best part of my day,” said Harper. “I think I’ve had a very positive impact on her because she is doing better in school now and is more focused.”

The program is slated to continue every Monday during the school year as long as volunteers continue to support it. To volunteer for one or multiple dates, contact Smith at 567-4151.

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