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Mentoring group stresses reading
Jimmy gets a handshake from Sugar the dog during Mentor Me North Georgia’s annual summer reading camp. - photo by Jim Dean

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A group of Forsyth County campers had a special visitor Wednesday.

Sugar the dog and her “mom,” Michele Bombard, made a stop at Mentor Me North Georgia’s annual summer reading camp.

Sylvia Cardona, executive director of Mentor Me, said the summer program is held for two weeks each summer. The first week is for students in kindergarten through second grade, while the second is for those in third through fifth grades

During the camps, which are in their fourth year, students focus on reading and writing skills they may otherwise not use during the break.

“It really helps the kids because we always read one book here and then they also get another book to take home with them to read,” Cardona said. “So when they go back to school, they’ve read at least two books over the summer.”

This year’s camp focus is making new and diverse friends, Cardona said.

Sugar represented special friends for a number of reasons, including being a canine, having two different colored eyes (one blue and one brown) and being deaf.

“We want to teach the kids that having all sorts of friends is a positive thing, so Sugar is perfect for that lesson,” Cardona said.

Campers seemed thrilled to give Sugar treats, shake her paw and learn how Bombard communicates with the white Boxer mix through sign language commands.

Besides meeting Sugar, the campers also enjoyed activities such as writing their own creative stories, creating illustrations to go along with them, and reading the children’s novel, “Because of Winn-Dixie,” which appropriately enough is about a girl who befriends a stray dog.

All of the students in the camp program also take part in Mentor Me’s after-school program, in which high school students and some adults work with them on homework and other activities.

Most of students in the program are children whose native language is not English, so the camps help them continue to use those language skills while out of school.

“To keep their English language skills fresh over the summer, we do the camps,” Cardona said.

She said the after-school program, which has been a part of Mentor Me’s offerings since 2008, began with just four elementary students and has grown to about 60.

The camp programs together helped about 30 students this summer.

Cardona said Mentor Me is always looking for caring adults to serve as one-on-one mentors for students, the organization’s primary outreach, and to help with other programs.

“We can never have too many mentors and volunteers,” she said.