School group says Wanda Keller is meant to mentor

Jan. 29, 2013 @ 04:16 PM

Wanda Keller stands a hand's width shy of 5 feet tall. Her first day 12 years ago as a mentor for Communities in Schools was spent looking up at a Granite Falls Middle School student nearly 6 feet in stature.

“Oh my goodness, this isn’t going to work,” she said she thought of the student, who was in the midst of a serious growth spurt.

That student from 12 years ago now stands about 6-6. The rest of the students she touched over the years came in all shapes and sizes. She loved them all.

“They’re all precious,” she said.

Keller is still working to change lives one at a time. Her efforts were recognized Tuesday at a CIS breakfast  at First Presbyterian Church in Lenoir, when she was named 2013 Louise Carroll Mentor of the Year. This is the second straight year a mentor from Granite Falls Middle School has won the award.

For more than 21 years, Communities In Schools of Caldwell County has worked in middle and high schools to address students' needs and ensure that children can receive support through one-on-one student mentoring, encouraging them to stay in school. CIS says it provides the link between educators and the community. This year, nearly 450 students in Caldwell County schools participated in CIS programs.

“CIS has done excellent work through the years,” Darrell Pennell, Caldwell County Schools board chairman, said during Tuesday’s breakfast. “It’s all because of the mentors. We are proud of each and every one of you.”

Olivia McAteer, CIS site director at William Lenoir Middle School, was also recognized as the first certified site director in Caldwell County, becoming one of more than 700 site directors who have enrolled in or completed the program. The following Mentors of the Year also were named from each participating school:

• Sonya Whitson, Gamewell Middle School

• Chris Scruggs, Hudson Middle School

• Rodney Raby, Hibriten High School

• Sherry Moore, William Lenoir Middle School

• Phyllis Triplett, West Caldwell High School

• Lois Andres, South Caldwell High School