Bay District Schools and Military Partner for Mentorship Program

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BAY COUNTY-- Bay district school officials want to provide students with positive role models.

So they're partnering with local military personnel to train them as mentors.

Tuesday's training sessions at Tyndall Air Force Base prepared about 100 men and women to work one-on-one with students in classrooms.

They hope to serve as role models for students of all ages.

Their ranks and reasons for showing up may be different.

"I wish that i had a mentor growing up," Staff Sergeant Cynthia Espinosa said

"I've been blessed to have a lot of mentors in my life," Senior Airman Nathan Reid said.

"I was that kid," Tyndall Housing Programming Manager, and civilian, Stefan Richardson said.

But they have the same goal as mentors.

"I want to give back," Richardson said.

"I want to show them that life's not terrible. People can make a difference," Reid said.

Organizers say service men and women can make ideal role models for students.

"Most military men and women have awesome stories about why they got in the military and why they are successful," Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt said.

"Kids love a familiar face. They love a familiar story," Richardson said. "Me coming from a marine corps background, this is what we were trained to do. We're trained to lead."

At some Bay District Schools, there's a strong military presence. But at others, it's tough for kids to find ways to connect with service members.

But they agree that their different experiences and backgrounds will help them relate to the problems students deal with.

Some say they want to work with troubled students.

"I'm back on the right track where I want to be, and I want to let them know it doesn't end there, even if they make mistakes," Espinosa said.

Or with certain age groups.

"This is when we need to start buckling down, getting it together and getting ready for that next step," Richardson said.

And when it comes down to it, Husfelt says, "This really is what our goal is: To have adult men and women standing in front of our students in our schools encouraging them."

The mentors can choose to volunteer at any school. They just need to dedicate two visits each month.

Bay Distric School officials will hold a similar training session for personnel at Naval Support Activity Panama City.