THV11 Hometown Hero Gerald Hatley

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - The transition to high school can be an exciting time for some, but for others, it can be intimidating.

"There's a lot of kids, and the hallways are really crowded, so it was scary to me,” explained Tavonia Smith.

“It was a big change,” added Mondraul Jernigan. “At first I really didn't think it was going to be as hard as it was.”

Hot Springs High School Vice Principal, Gerald Hatley quickly realized something needed to be done to help make their transition a little smoother, so he decided to implement a peer mentoring program called Camp Troy.

"We try to target as many of the students as we can, especially those who have the most challenges,” Hatley told THV11.  He and some of the teachers began recruiting junior and senior leaders to reach out to freshman. "We try to pair them with freshman that are in their--let's say extracurricular area, like sports or activities--and that way they'll see them a lot more often."

Angelica Perkins was one of the first mentors in the program when it started two years ago. This year she has four mentees.

“During breakfast I go out of my way to speak to them in the morning and dance practice,” Perkins described. “I make sure they're doing OK in dance."
Angelica and her mentee, Smith, said they talk about everything from dance to school to academic or personal issues.

“It makes me feel better because I know I got everything off my chest, and it helps me keep my head held high and know that everything will be ok,” said Smith.
"It’s very humbling to know that you make a difference in someone's life. It makes you want to be a better person,” added Perkins.

The mentors and mentees also get to spend time interacting during their annual college tour. Last year, they traveled to the University of Arkansas, where they attended a football game and toured the campus.

“For some of the kids, they say ‘This is something I can do,’ so it kind of gives them some inspiration to want to work harder,” continued Hatley.

Mondraul, now a sophomore, said he's a better student because of the program and says he's proud to call Mr. Hatley their hometown hero.

"I feel like he really cares about us, and he really loves us and wants to help us. By having this peer mentoring group shows that he really does care about us,” Mondraul concluded.

Camp Troy also has a side program called Operation Graduation, where school leader visit the homes of at risk students. The goal is to get parents more involved in helping their children graduate from high school.

http://hotsprings.thv11.com/news/news/514963-my-town-hero-new-program-helps-students-transition-high-school-mentor-system