The acronym stands for “Building Outstanding Leaders Today,” said founder DHS senior Lucy Jones.
“I decided to start BOLT because there are students who have potential to be great. They don't know it, but I believe with the right guidance and proper instruction that they will be great. We need more leaders in our community and I am willing to help as much as possible,” said Jones. “I decided it during the summer when I was attending leadership camp and thought to myself ‘how can I get this information out to my community and the student body?’”
The “it” she wants to get out to the community and to the DHS student body is leadership, getting things done, helping others.
“People usually say the youth is for tomorrow, but I believe we're today,” declared Jones. “We can't wait for something to change. We have to make it and work for it as a team. I want the students that I am working with to grow. I want them to be able to see if someone needs help to not even just think about helping them, but to just do it.”
Jones, who is an honor student, served as the marching band’s color guard captain this fall and is the executive officer for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at DHS, spent most of this past summer and year attending Girl’s State at the University of Alabama, the Lion’s Club Alabama High School Leadership Forum at Troy University and the Walsh Academy of Leadership at the University of Montevallo. She also graduated last spring from the Dale County Youth Leadership Program.
“I love helping others. That is my passion. I know I can't force anything on people, but I truly believe these students will feel greatness and compassion and that service and helping others feels like that with time and service.”
Students in grades seventh through 10th are being mentored by older students that are juniors and seniors and Jones said the younger participants “are the students that are willing to grow and learn from the mentors” and that the mentors “are those students with outstanding leadership abilities that are willing to help and learn as well.”
Jones said Daleville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Diane Flournoy and DHS Principal Joshua Robertson were very supportive of her idea for BOLT and were indispensable in getting things going.
“We have tremendous support from our principal, Mr. Robertson, and our superintendent, Dr. Flournoy. It has been a process getting up and running, but they have done so much to help me get the program started. I am so grateful for leaders like them who want to see students helping students.”
Dr. Flournoy said, “We are very excited about the launching of the new DHS student mentoring program—BOLT. Mentoring programs, like any successful partnership, are designed to achieve the goals and objectives of the people involved. More so than other types of programs, mentoring programs must consider the needs and goals of several constituencies—the students who will be mentored and their families, the mentors themselves, the school, partner organizations who may contribute volunteers or resources and the community in general.
“Back in August, Lucy Jones presented the idea to the administration and our school board chairperson Debra Latremore and received the go ahead to move forward under the supervision of the school mentoring coordinator,” said Dr. Flournoy, adding that the team members on BOLT have done “their homework and have set all the foundations to have a very successful program.”
The mentors for this first year effort are: Lucy Jones, Casey Sturgill, Sierra Merrell, Ana Deras, Kori Raybon, Alyssa Aquino and Graysen Faulk.
Younger students being mentored through BOLT are Daizy Wallace, Kayla Curtis, Evan Eaton, Eduardo Pliego, Cortez Buckhalter, Ericka Herring, Aaliyah Arcelay, Alisha Scott and Amerikus Enfinger.
The way BOLT found its participants was simply through teacher suggestions, the mentors reaching out to the younger students and by some students’ requests to participate.
Jones said BOLT mentors provide tutoring on Tuesday afternoons and participate in community service activities on Thursday afternoons.
“Every fourth Thursday we do a volunteer project during school hours,” explained Jones.
The group recently completed its first volunteer project by working at the Wiregrass Food Bank in Dothan. Jones said BOLT members will also be getting involved with projects at Wiregrass Habitat for Humanity, hosting bingo games at nursing homes, activities at the Wiregrass Children’s Home and more.
“When we go to these places we work wherever it is needed,” said Jones.
To raise funds for BOLT, a T-shirt sale was recently held and Fort Rucker’s helicopter maintenance contractor, Army Fleet Support, “graciously donated to our program,” said Jones, adding that BOLT is also planning to sell pretzel rods in the near future, while looking for other fundraising “opportunities along the way.”
Retired Col. Teresa Townsend is the senior Army instructor for the DHS JROTC and also serves the new BOLT organization as school sponsor.
She said, "Lucy is an emergent leader who identified a problem here at Daleville and developed a solution. Solving issues of tardiness, truancy, minor behavioral issues and academic deficiencies should not automatically result in a referral to the office. Sometimes, a softer touch can net far greater benefits.
“The near-peer mentors model the behavior we want to see and can relate to those being mentored better than we adults. Giving them a chance to participate in community service, like the Wiregrass Area Food Bank, helps them to understand the importance of giving back. If we're very successful, we will grow more leaders like Lucy and the other mentors to continually sustain this effort."
The superintendent re-iterated that “Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges and makes them feel like they matter. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations. To have our students come together and come with such a passion to assist in our overall goal as educators touches the heart, and we support them 100 percent.”
Jones’s principal, Joshua Robertson, said, “As an educator, having a student create and manage a new organization on campus has been a pleasure to see. Lucy has already made a difference on campus with creation of Bolt. She has empowered a group of students to pass on their experiences to another group of students who are seeking out assistance and guidance that only a peer can provide. Bolt is being established to last past Lucy's graduation. It has been put together with the vision that she intended.”