SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. –“I built a rocket and I sent if off when I was 7 years old,” said Master Sgt. Spencer A. Foster (photo left), Third Army/ARCENT material readiness branch, aviation maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge.
“One day when Cedric reflects back, he will be able to say that to someone and it will be true,” said Foster.
Although Foster is an active-duty soldier and a father to four young children at home, he sets aside one day a week to mentor Cedric Wright, a 2nd grade student at R.E. Davis Elementary School here in Sumter, S.C. with whom he built a rocket, May 1, 2013.
Foster said the idea of building a rocket started out as a motivational tactic to get the 7-year-old more interested in reading but said his tactic also exposed the young student to something that he wouldn't do on an average school day.
“I wanted to give Cedric something to excite him about reading. He likes to read but it's difficult and that frustrates him at times, so he doesn't always want to engage it. When he talked to me about wanting to be an Astronaut and he had curiosities about how rockets get into the sky, I asked him one day, do you want to learn how to build a rocket and set it off into the sky?” said Foster.
The task of a mentor can be rewarding but one has to be able to inspire as they encourage a student.
“A mentor is a person who has the capability of being a good listener, be able to encourage a student and also have the ability to observe that student's individual needs,” said Anne M. McFadden, Principal at R.E. Davis Elementary School.
“Sometimes you can change a child's everything with just a smile.”
Foster's tactic to capture Wright's attention helped shape his mentee's mind to understand that there is adventure in reading.
“He was really excited about wanting to build a rocket and it motivated him even beyond our conversation,” said Foster. “His teacher noticed the immediate change in his conduct during class because he had something to look forward to. Stimulating his interest was something I wanted to give to Cedric but I wanted to do it in a way that fell outside the norm of playing video games or watching television. I wanted him to know there is something else out there that can stoke his interest, something that can give him an opportunity; that there is rocket science.”
The mentorship program is a program which provides a positive interactive atmosphere to students in need. It strengthens their learning abilities while exposing them to diversity and various cultures. Although the program is new to R.E. Davis Elementary, the impact on the lives it changes is everlasting, said McFadden.
As for Wright he said he likes that his mentor, Foster, helps him sound out unknown words and pronounce them correctly.
“At first I would say the word ‘the' like ‘da', I would start it with a ‘d' but my mentor would say ‘no,' then say it the right way and I would say it the way he did,” said Wright. “I love to read and learn words I don't know. My favorite part about my education is reading because when I get older I am going to have to read things to sign stuff.”
Several students at the elementary school have mentors and they have helped them to improve in school and at home, said McFadden and she hopes to see the continuation of the program and to see it expand.
“Every kid doesn't grow up the same, every kid may not have the benefits of our more successful youths and if their disadvantages gets engrained at such a young age then they grow-up believing they're never going to be anything or they're never going to have anything, it's best to encourage children by expanding their mind in many ways,” said Foster.
Article and photo by U.S. Army Spc. Sharmain Burch
Provided through DVIDS
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