The Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Mentor Program and partnership with Reilly Elementary began during the 1997-98 school year, when the school’s counselor explored the idea of tapping into resources at the large DPS Headquarters complex next to Reilly. The program had ten mentors the first year. Through the hard work of some DPS employees, school administrators and with the full support of the DPS executive directors the program has grown exponentially over the years. We currently have over 110 DPS employees and others volunteering as mentors at Reilly. Many current mentors have been participating in the program for more than ten years. The mentors spend one hour per week having lunch with their student. This simple act may not seem like much but it can make a major impact in the lives of these children. The weekly visit with their mentor is often the only one-on-one contact these kids have with an adult on a regular basis. This is not an academic type tutoring program, rather it is all about showing the kids that people care. Here are some highlights of the program:
- The largest mentor program in AISD, with over 1300 mentors over the years.
- The DPS Mentor Program received the Business Partner of the Year award from Austin Partners in Education in 2014.
- The program holds an annual school supply drive which averages approximately $5,000 worth of supplies donated each fall.
Since 2004, DPS has hosted a year end party for all the kids and mentors. The kids affectionately call this the "Helicopter Party." The mentors provide pizza, snow cones, cookie station, and t-shirts for every child involved in the program. The kids have the opportunity to work with the Crime Lab techs to learn how to dust for fingerprints, the SWAT team displays their vehicles and robots and the pilots help the kids explore the helicopter and explain how it works. Troopers from the Highway Patrol, bike and motorcycle patrol show them with their patrol units, bike patrol and motorcycle patrol, a K-9 unit, the mounted horse patrol, and a fire truck on site. This allows the children to have the opportunity to interact with local law enforcement in a positive way and to expose them to the wide variety of careers in law enforcement
The DPS mentors have held several fundraisers over the years and raised thousands of dollars to fund parties for the kids and donate money to the school. The program has helped fund field trips, the annual 5th grade trip to Camp Champion science camp, and to help the school in many ways, including filling in gaps due to budget cuts.
The DPS Mentor Program and our employee’s volunteer outreach to the Reilly students and community has had a significant and positive impact on the school and is a true example of the DPS employees’ exemplary service to our local community. Our connection to the school has led to many DPS employees reaching out to help the Reilly community in a variety of ways in addition to the mentor program. For example, each year at Christmas various groups of DPS employees sponsor some of the neediest families from Reilly, we have had many unexpected donations to the school in the form of gift cards for HEB at Thanksgiving, donation of gift cards for other events, donations of warm winter coats for the kids, donations of TV and DVR players to classrooms and donations of bikes and helmets.
DPS and Reilly absolutely love this program and hopes to continue our partnership. It is really important to note that this program is made up of a group of caring state employees. DPS mentors are just a bunch of big-hearted state employees who want to help out these kids. They are great examples of dedicated state employees who embrace the spirit of volunteerism and community involvement.