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First Lady Deborah Bryant Helps Promote Barbara Bush Foundation Mentoring Program
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Trendsetters, Liza McFadden, Cedrick Gray, Deborah Bryant, rear
Desare Frazier

"He mostly likes to play outside and stuff. But he'll tell you that too," said Tyner. 

Sixteen-year old Mitchell Tyner is talking about Spann Elementary School third grader, Caden Price. Tyner, an 11th grade student at Jackson Academy, and Price are buddies. Tyner mentors him in reading at Spann. 

"Nice to see somebody every Thursday and know that he'll be there and he's your buddy. It's just nice to help somebody," said Tyner.

The pair are in The Teen Trendsetters program sponsored by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. They launched the project in Jackson, last fall. It pairs elementary schools with mentors from area high and middle schools. Liza McFadden is president of the foundation.

"We focus on students who are in first, second or third grade who are struggling with reading and their parents signs a contract with them, that the child will come and read to them at least twice a week. We make sure that books go home with the child usually one every other week," said McFadden. 

Mc Fadden says the bond that develops between mentors and the children encourages them to read. Yesterday, they highlighted the project's success at Spann Elementary. Tyner's mentee Caden.

"How has he helped you become a better reader? Helped me learn the words. How does he do that? By letting me read by myself," said Caden.

McFadden says on average, students who begin the program nine months behind grade level, read at grade level, by the end of the year. Spann Principal Nicole Menotti.

"All of their STAR scores are going up and that's what we want," said Menotti.

First Lady Deborah Bryant is here to support expanding the program. 

"I think it should be in all our schools. I think we should go to the Delta. I think we should go to all those schools that I went to that, that there's just not enough people to go around. The one-on-one means so much," said Bryant.

More than 300 students participate in the program. Teens must receive training and take an online course to be a mentor.