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State Honoree

Audrey Ells Payne


created a mentoring program that pairs high school students with elementary school students from abusive or unstable environments. The idea, which sprang from a research paper on child abuse that Audrey wrote, was to provide children the chance to experience activities they might not otherwise experience, to learn how to be themselves, and to become more open with their feelings. “Every child deserves to have someone they can call a true friend,” said Audrey. So she researched similar mentoring programs , wrote an action plan, and recruited fellow students to serve as mentors. She worked with a counselor at a local elementary school to identify appropriate students for the program, and secured permission from the children’s parents. Audrey was also able to secure a community grant to get the program off the ground. In its first year, the program operated throughout the summer season, and the mentors worked with the children on their basic skills while enjoying fun activities, like circus trips and acting in plays. Now in its second year, the program runs year-round and is the largest student-developed program at Audrey’s high school. “Everyone can be a role model,” said Audrey. “It is a completely satisfying feeling to know I’ve helped a child grow.”