• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Trivia night set for Mentors & Meals

Mentors & Meals will hold its second annual Trivia Night Friday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. in the Woodford County Middle School cafeteria to raise money for the local non-profit group. The program has benefited 50 middle-school students a year since it was formed in 2011, founder and director Lisa Johnson said. On Friday, some of the mentors will themselves be tested: teams of up to six will answer, or try to answer, five questions in 10 categories in a competition for prizes, including a "biggest loser" award for the lowest-scoring team. Last year, when Johnson needed some organizational assistance for the group's first Trivia Night, she reached out to the hardest-working man in non-show business: Mike Coleman. The former Versailles City Council member was already putting the finishing touches on the 2015 Versailles 4th of July Festivities (a duty he's repeated this year) and was involved in several other community service ventures. Of course, he said yes. "There were probably about 20 teams and it was very successful, so they wanted to do it again this year," Coleman said. Coleman said since its inception, Mentors & Meals volunteers have amassed 15,000 hours tutoring the students in core school subjects, with more than 16,000 hot meals and snacks served. Johnson said the inaugural trivia night raised more than $5,000, a total she hopes to double or triple this year or next. The teams are typically composed of adults, some of whom are mentors, but this year, students under the age of 21 can pay $10 and take part, too. "The main supporters have been our board members. We have a board of 12, and the board has really done a good job recruiting people around the community to come and play, but we are encouraging student teams to participate this year as well," Johnson said. The program was started to serve what Johnson called an unmet need in Woodford County. "There were no after-school programs - academically-focused programs - for middle schoolers. And I also noticed that there's a wealth of leaders and wonderful role models at the high school, so the Mentor and Meals mission is to enhance academic achievement in middle-school students through mentoring," Johnson said. Most of the mentors are high-school and college students who receive volunteer and in-service hours for taking part. "Mentoring, to me, is one step beyond tutoring. Yes, we help with homework, and there's a one-hour designated homework help time. Normally we're able to pair one or two students for every one mentor," Johnson said, adding that some adults serve as mentors, too. Thirty students and 15 mentors gather Monday through Thursday at the First Christian Church Life Center from 3:30 to 6 p.m. They begin the session with a healthy snack, followed by an hour for homework help or mentoring, Johnson said. An agreement with the Woodford County School District allows students with signed permission slips to ride a bus to First Christian. "At about 4:30, everyone's brain-dead, because they've been at school since 8 in the morning, so at 4:30, we have an organized group activity," Johnson said. The activities include gym time on Monday, a guest speaker on Tuesday, STEM training (science, technology, engineering and math) on Wednesday, and "reading dogs" on Thursday. "The middle school kids really enjoy reading to the reading dogs and that kind of helps them have more confidence in their reading skills and have fun doing it," Johnson said. Each day, a hot meal (with a sack lunch on Thursday) is prepared by various volunteer groups. On Friday at Woodford County Middle School, many of the mentors and others working to improve the lives of area students will gather to do so once again - even though one group of them will finish last and thus be dubbed "The Biggest Losers." People who'd like to take part in the Meals & Mentors Trivia Night or learn more about the program can do so at the group's website, www.mentors-meals.org, or call Johnson at (859) 552-6873. The registration fee for the trivia night includes a meal prepared by Addie's, prizes, a raffle and live auction.

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