There are more than 260 inmates in the Angelina County jail. Many of the prisoners have kids at home waiting for their return. The Deep East Texas Council of Governments developed the Honors Mentoring Program to keep kids with jailed parents on the right track.
"Most of our kids want to emulate parents," said Youth Director Dora Wilmore. "Instead of following a parent's footsteps into prison, they can look at that mentor who may be doing some things in the community - positive things - and emulate that as well."
It doesn't take much to mentor - four hours of training and then one hour a week - but the rewards last a lifetime.
"We found that mentoring helps because kids who become involved in mentoring activities are less likely to become involved in risky behaviors like drug and alcohol usage or theft," said Wilmore. "They do better in school [and] their self-esteem improves."
Honors mentors do not have to spend money on or act as parents to kids in the program. Instead, they spend quality time with their new friend through family-oriented activities, functions, and programs in the community.
Mentor Paul Jackson said, "I think every child longs for attention, especially the young male children. Everybody needs a father figure-positive role model and I think they just like spending time with somebody who gives them some positive attention. A lot of kids are growing up as I did without a positive male figure at home - I just look at [mentoring] as my duty."
DETCOG's program is only three years old, but it's already found mentors for about a hundred kids. In fact, Honors Mentoring is so popular, there is now a waiting list for people who want to mentor.