Dedicated. Committed. A strong advocate. Those are just a few ways that Jay Swedenborg, executive director at Communities In Schools of Chesterfield, Va., would describe Kimberly Reynolds, a site coordinator at Ettrick Elementary School.
“I view site coordinators as very high-energy people, and she definitely fits the bill,” said Swedenborg. “She is also a person who is very student-centered, so she is going to do whatever is needed to help students be successful. That’s not just a statement – that’s how she lives out her work.”
This is Reynolds’ fourth year as a site coordinator at Ettrick, a pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade school located in a close-knit community in Chesterfield County. Throughout her tenure, she has worked hard at building trusting relationships with the community’s families, teachers and partner organizations.
One major challenge that Reynolds faces is that even though her students are only in elementary school, they already do not see themselves as college-bound.
“When I would talk to kids and ask, ‘What do you want to do?’ they didn’t say they had goals, dreams or aspirations. It’s not that they aren’t capable, it’s attitudinal. I needed to figure out some way to get them seeing beyond to the future,” the site coordinator said.
In the predominantly African-American community where Ettrick Elementary resides, Reynolds wanted to make sure that her male students had positive black male role models to both connect with and learn from. With those goals in mind, the site coordinator partnered with Virginia State University (VSU) to start a mentoring program. Twelve male and female college students mentor children at the elementary school each week.
The VSU students spend time with their mentees every Monday, and it’s not uncommon for them to spend lunch in the cafeteria with them as well. In return, the elementary school students visit their mentors at VSU, and spend the day with them, attending classes and touring the campus.
“These kids cannot wait for Monday. Some of my other students are coming up to me in the hall asking, ‘Can I have a mentor? How do I get into this program?’ They are talking about it a lot,” said Reynolds.
Through this partnership, the site coordinator said her students are beginning to look at themselves differently. They see college is within their reach and want to come to school. As her elementary school students move on to middle and then high school, Reynolds continues to engage them by asking them to help mentor other elementary school students.
“The mentors have been wonderful,” she said. “And the program will only get better as it grows and expands.”