AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Life pressures continue to escalate for students of middle school age and the need for allies has never been greater. Although friendships in the same peer group are very important, adolescents can also benefit tremendously from adult relationships as we see in this edition of ‘Good News With Doppler Dave’.
Every week, Jonathan Dindinger leaves work headed for the cafeteria-but not the all you can eat buffet or even a restaurant. It’s the lunch break at Fannin Middle School where he volunteers.
I asked Jonathan why, of all the places he could go, choose a big room filled with unruly middle school students?
“Well, Dave, this age group is just an age group that just needs a voice and sometimes just coming and hanging out with these guys, they just need someone to talk to. They need someone to hang out and just be another person to be friends with,” explained Jonathan.
Middle school years are a vulnerable time for kids with so many social pressures.
Sixth grade student Martin Garcia shared, “Some of my friends, like, they have issues with popularity and girlfriends and stuff. If I had one of those issues it would help me to know that this person wants to come, and they are not getting paid for it. It’s their own choice to come help us.”
Jonathan added, "The kids are facing stress from a certain friend, for dressing a certain way, or the other things I have heard them talking about are their home lives."
Principal Nathan Culwell shares the positive impact that Jonathan brings to the school as a volunteer, saying, “He is another positive role model. He hangs out at lunch and builds relationships with our kids so, he is just someone else they can go to and see. Sometimes school people, they don’t always want to talk to us.”
Although kids at this age may be slow to open up and initiate a discussion about their struggles, their need for a compassionate adult listener is obvious.
Nalexis Hayes, a middle school student at Fannin, told me, “I would rather talk to them than an actual teacher because with teachers I feel like you should talk more to them about, like, school, but not your actual life problems. If they, like, help us, then we can learn different things instead of the same teacher over and over.”
Martin agreed and said, “Well they can help with that by, like, just talking to their kid about how their life was and how they got through it.”
Stepping in as a listening adult, Jonathan fills a very great need.
Principal Culwell explained, “There is a lot of research about kids that lack adults in their life and so, anytime we can get an adult, a positive role model, to just be around kids--it doesn’t have to be a big thing, just to be present and available.”
Every middle school can use volunteers. The need is great and getting greater.
“These kids need as many mentors as possible,” according to Jonathan. “Sure, there is 75 on staff here, but there are three or 400 kids coming through here everyday and they need help.”
The investments that Jonathan, or any adult volunteer makes, may just take place for a few minutes during a school day. But for kids in the school, when they leave, it might affect them for a lifetime. Now that’s some good news.