August 2008

Mentoring in Mississippi


State Rep. Brian Aldridge from Tupelo talks with sixth graders from Lawndale Elementary School in the State Capitol building.

Hard work shouldn’t be that much fun, says TVA Valley Relations Program Manager Amy Tate, but in this case, it was for her. “I got as much out of it as the students, because it’s what I love to do.”

Tate is describing her pivotal role in the Lawndale Elementary School Leadership Academy, where this spring, 30 Tupelo, Miss., sixth graders learned very grown-up lessons about succeeding in the real world. The unique experience emphasized teamwork, effective communications and leadership. Students were taught by volunteer community and business leaders.

“These people devoted hours to prepare themselves to enrich and inspire these bright, inquisitive minds,” says Tate.

The school learned about Tate’s skills from the Community Development Foundation, the local economic-development organization. The program was funded through a grant from the local school district.

Tate helped develop the curriculum, secured the teachers and planned the trip to the State Capitol, where the students met members of the state legislature and saw their daily routine. She also was the class mentor and a teacher.

“Teaching ‘Effective Communication’ and ‘Leadership in Government’ were natural for me, since my work at TVA involves interacting with the public and working with elected officials,” she says.

“These kids learned more about themselves than anything else. By the program’s end, their self-esteem was so high; any one of them had the confidence to do anything they wanted.”

The program will continue this fall, when another crop of excited students is chosen.

“We hope the school district will consider taking this program to all its sixth graders,” Tate says. “It’s never too early to start teaching leadership skills.”