November 19, 2019
Senior Gracie Martin Comes Full Circle as Barnabas Mentor
Written by Amy Frierson
At least once a week, Prince Avenue Christian School senior Gracie Martin can be seen around campus meeting with a younger student. The two might be playing a game, working on homework, or just talking about their day all as part of the school’s Barnabas Program.
Gracie knows what a younger student needs in a mentor because she herself was once in need of the encouragement and the example set by an older Prince student. When she was a lower school student, Gracie was mentored by the Barnabas Program’s founder, Anne Barron Tufts (Class of ’09).
As a junior in high school, Anne felt called to encourage the Prince upper school community to operate as the hands and feet of Christ while ministering to the social, emotional, spiritual, and academic needs of lower school students. In 2008, with the help of teacher sponsors, Anne piloted the Barnabas Program that is still in existence today.
As Barnabas Program mentors, high school students have the opportunity to make a year-long investment in the life of a lower school student. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors can enroll in the program as an elective class after providing teacher recommendations and demonstrating Christian character which can be modeled to younger students. Mentors also participate in specialized training to prepare them for the year ahead.
Gracie is a wonderful example of the value of the program at Prince. Gracie says that under Anne’s leadership, the Barnabas Program helped her to gain confidence as a young student. “It was nice having someone there willing to listen and not judge. It was also special to just go do something fun. I was able to be myself, and I was accepted for being myself.”
Gracie now enjoys supporting other students the way in which she herself was supported. “I wanted to be there for kids just as someone was there for me. I want them to know that no matter what they are going through, they can be open and honest with me. I want them to feel like they have a place to go to be themselves.”
When told that little Gracie Martin was now a senior mentoring her own students at PACS, Anne Barron Tufts was overwhelmed. “When I think back to the summer before my junior year when the Lord put the idea of Barnabas on my heart, I certainly had no idea of the big plans He had. I never imagined it would continue for eleven years or that the children who were mentored then would one day become mentors themselves.” Anne says that just thinking about Gracie being a mentor herself brings a smile to her face. “I know that only the Lord could make such a wonderful ministry, and I am thankful to have been able to watch it grow over the years.”
And grow it has! Barnabas currently has 32 mentors serving 60 students in kindergarten through 7th-grades, and many of the 32 mentors, like Gracie, were once mentees themselves. It is common to see the pairs around the school during recess or lunch enjoying a variety of activities such as sports, crafts, games, books, and homework help. The younger students look forward to their meetings with great anticipation, and over time, a special bond is formed.
Prince Avenue Christian School is committed to developing Christian leaders, and the Barnabas Program serves as the standard for the school’s efforts. Other opportunities for older students to mentor, lead, and influence young Wolverines include 5th-grade Reading Buddies for kindergarten students as well as Building Buddies where younger classes in the church building have activities with older classes in the main school building. Additionally, middle and high school students sometimes meet for joint Chapel, train together for sports, or lead one another in devotionals. This relational aspect of Prince contributes to the school’s tight-knit community and family atmosphere.
Barnabas faculty sponsor and PACS Librarian Nancy Simpson explains that what typically begins as a relationship to bless the mentee almost always blesses the mentor. “The high school students begin each year with a servant heart planning on being a terrific mentor and guiding their mentees. However, almost always, the mentors are greatly impacted by the relationships that are established.”
Gracie with Anne Barron Tufts in 2009 Gracie with 3rd-Grader Morgan Holt