Sonja Mangham is a Student Support Coach at Therrell High School where she provides students with mentoring, academic and family support. She recently won the 2018 Patty Pflum All In For Kids Staff Award for showing extraordinary dedication and commitment to serving our youth. We spoke with her about how she transforms the students of CIS of Atlanta.
Q: How did you feel when you won the staff award this year?
A: It was unexpected. I was so surprised. People say I do such a good job, but I don’t look at it like that. This is what I do. I don’t expect anything for it. I was shocked.
Q: What does a typical morning look like for you as a student support coach?
A: Usually in the mornings, the kids will come in and check in with me for a little morning motivation. I have students who come in and talk to me every day. Also, two days out of the week I hold a small group called “Bring Your A Game”. We talk about attendance, attitude and academics. We talk about making sure they are on track to graduate.
Q: Is there a pattern that you see when talking with your student?
A: I work with students individually. It’s important for me to get to know my students as individuals to let them know that I’m here for them. I listen to everything they say to filter through to see what I can do for them. Establishing a relationship is the big picture. Before moving on it’s important to find out what their needs are.
Q: What keeps you going?
A: When I see my students turn around. Most of my students have been here since the 9th grade and weren’t living up to their potential. For example, I’ve supported one student, Angel. During her first year in school she was failing 3 classes and her attitude was bad. Now she’s in the 10th grade and is an A/B student! She has perfect attendance and her whole demeanor has changed. This is what inspires me. This is what motivates me.
Q: What are the best tools used to reach students?
A: Kids need to experience things outside of their everyday routines. I know Frank, our CEO, took some kids to D.C and New York. I loved that. We need more opportunities like that. It makes an impression on the kids in a great way. Even small trips would work, like taking them on a small weekend trip in-state. The more opportunities the better.
Q: What is one thing you want people to know about the work that you do?
A: This work is a lot of fun. I just want to impact the lives of students in whatever capacity that might be. I’m not just helping them, but I like to say I’m “kicking it” with the kids!