Interviewed by Shaina Zaccagnino Nomination by Tara Burnett Photography by Simplicity Photography Art by Kristen Lyn Oklahoma
The Nomination: Abbey Burnett- Abbey is my oldest daughter and this is her senior year of High School. Abbey mentored in a program at our local Elementary Schools, Highland Park, every Monday morning, this past year for a third grade at risk student. She served as a role model and encouraged the female student to "Dream Big" and follow her dreams of being an attorney someday. Towards the end of the school year, Abbey's mentee moved to live back with her real mom. Abbey continues to keep in touch with her mentee through social media.....she will take on a new at risk student this year to continue to inspire at risk girls to "Dream Big" and "self-love" in a vulnerable world.
How did you become interested in mentoring at risk students and how did you start? My Mother is an Elementary Principal and works at a High Poverty school in my hometown. She started the mentoring program to "Break the cycle" for these students many years ago. I always heard her come home and talk about how inspirational and meaningful the program was to her and to her students. Last year, I came up with the idea of mentoring and to be involved during my late start Monday mornings. I also recruited several of my classmates and High School friends to mentor as well and help make the difference in a young student's life.
Why do you think helping at risk students is important? Education is the key to living your life to the fullest and following your dreams. Many at risk students do not have that role model at home telling them that they can do this if they continue their education and do well in school. Like my Mom stated at home, it’s important to "Break the cycle" and show at risk students that the world is their oyster, so to speak. With a positive influence and role modeling, they will see this and develop self-confidence to become anyone they wish to become!
Tell me a little bit about the at-risk program at Highland Park Elementary. According to my Mom, the Elementary Principal, Highland Park is 70% free/reduced lunch. A lot of their students are high mobility, moving in and out with their families, going where work is located. Highland Park feeds into many apartment complexes. Currently, Highland Park has over 40 adults from our local community that mentor students weekly. We visit with the students for about twenty minutes, eat lunch, play academic games, or help with homework and studies.
What do you think is the most important part about teaching at risk students to “Dream Big”? Life is about what you give to others...time is irreplaceable. I was fortunate enough to have a family that values education and has encouraged me to go to college. Not every student has this situation at home. So, we need to inspire others. I tell my mentee that if they don't dream big, and have a vision, they lose sight of their goal and wander around carelessly. Shoot for the moon, because you will always land among the stars.
What do you plan on doing after high school? When I graduate in May, I will be attending Oklahoma State University with a degree in speech pathology or Agribusiness. My roots run deep in agriculture and I am very active in the FFA chapter in my hometown where I hone my leadership skills. I am planning to run for a State FFA Office next spring and hopefully follow in my Mom's footsteps. She was State FFA Reporter in 1991 and Served over 20,000 Oklahoma FFA Members by inspiring them to "Dream Big." I want to do just that.....I am putting myself out there...