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BASEHOR, Kan. — In Leavenworth County Schools, teachers are leaning on voices of experience. A unique program offers high school students academic credit for spending time in elementary school classrooms.

Organizers of the Care Cats mentoring program with Basehor Linwood Public Schools love to hear their students echo that mission.

Since 1999, Care Cats has taken students from the local high school and placed them as classroom mentors in the district’s elementary schools.

Unlike similar programs at other school districts, Care Cats offers its student mentors credit toward their high school diplomas while they provide a classroom presence meant to curb misbehavior and bullying.

Kara Douglas can attest to the program. She’s a teacher at Glenwood Ridge Elementary school, but in 2009, she was a senior in high school, and a mentor giving kids in this school a role model.

“It’s someone they can see themselves as in the future,” Douglas said. “They can look up to them and say, ‘I’ll be in high school at Basehor. That could be me someday, and I want to be just like Taylor or Cody.'”

This relationship might not exist if not for Tammy Potts. She started the program 16 years ago. Since then, she’s seen over 2,400 high school students pass through the program.

“The reward is seeing the kids are understanding what they’re doing, but there’s that friendship connection,” Potts explained. “That’s what keeps them coming back each time.”

And Care Cats is helping improve student behavior. Just ask Glenwood Ridge first-grader Avery Spellman.

“They help people be quiet, and if they’re, like, yelling, they’ll say, ‘Quiet, guys.’ they do actually help some people out,” Spellman said.

Potts adds that all that’s required of high school students involved in the program is 10 hours per month. It’s all going toward building brighter futures.

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