For the second year in a row, a UGA College of Education student has been recognized for his work as a mentor in the Clarke County School District.
David Stanley, a third-year doctoral student in the department of counseling and human development services, was named Clarke Central High School's Mentor of the Year for the 2017-2018 year. Stanley, who is studying counseling psychology, was named Mentor of the Year for Clarke Middle School last year; this is his third year serving as a mentor.
Each year, school counselors nominate one mentor at their school who has gone above and beyond in their role, said Colleen Pruitt, executive director of the Clarke County Mentor Program. These mentors are honored at an annual fundraising breakfast, where one mentor is named the district-wide mentor of the year.
Stanley's mentee is now in ninth grade at Clarke Central High School, and the transition has gone well, said Stanley. As a mentor, he checks in with his mentee, asking how classes are going and if he needs any help. But because he's a good student and many of his friends are also at the school, it's created a new set of challenges for Stanley.
"A lot of the time I'm just hanging around with him and the friends he hangs with. I'm there to just be there, really," said Stanley. "Many would say the difference between middle school and high school is more freedom—there's supervision there, but not as much supervision as middle school. but with that comes more opportunities to do things that aren't the best."
Even so, Stanley added, his mentee is keeping his eye on the bigger picture.
"I just try to remind him that these are big years for going to college and setting yourself up for success in that area," he said. "He wants to go to college, and so I just try to support him and say, 'Hey, I'm here if you need anything.'
"I try to create an environment that allows him to be forthcoming about anything he'd like to talk about."
Stanley meets with his mentee during school—often during physical education class. He sometimes takes this in-school opportunity to set an example during lessons. For example, one day the class was learning about health—specifically, health and sexuality. After the teacher went through various types of birth control, Stanley raised his hand and asked for a clarification.
"I do that to show the students it's OK to be engaged and want to know more," he said. "And that goes across all topics."
His relationship with his mentee and his friends is one more way Stanley says he tries to lead by example.
His love of psychology was sparked during his undergraduate years at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Now, whether it's inspiring his four younger brothers to excel in school or considering how his future as a psychologist can affect others' lives, Stanley said he feels lucky to have found a career path that seems to fit perfectly with who he is.
"I feel like I've had that capacity and ability my whole life, and so when I found this career path, this is something that fits with who I am," he said. "So it's amazing to be able to find something that fits with who you are already."