Slicer Champions mentoring program provides tools to navigate school and life

Slicer Champions mentoring program provides tools to navigate school and life

Since 2017, Slicer Champions — a school-based mentoring program at La Porte High School — has been pairing students with local mentors to help teens navigate school and life.

Slicer Champions Program Coordinator Amanda Lower revealed that American Licorice Company originated the idea for a local mentoring program and reached out to La Porte High School to create Slicer Champions.

“American Licorice reached out to the administrators at La Porte High School because they recognized that there was a need to reach the youth in the community. It was their brainchild to create a program that allowed the community members that come into the school corporation to mentor and champion the students within,” Lower said.

The La Porte High School principal at that time, Dr. Ben Tonagel, met with American Licorice Company’s executives and determined that it would be a great fit for the school and opportunity for the students.

The program is completely grant and community sponsored. Walmart supported the program through a community grant for food, drinks, and crafting supplies for mentoring sessions this year. Over the years, sponsors have included Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, Horizon Bank, Lilly Endowment, Big Comedy La Porte, and American Licorice Company.

Not only does the community fund Slicer Champions, but community members also volunteer to serve as program mentors. These mentors go through a background check and provide bios to help Lower pair mentors with students who have similar personalities and interests.

Toward the beginning of the program, Lower would reach out to the community through her own personal contacts, social media posts, and word of mouth to find mentors for the program. Now that the program has been around for six years and has gained quite the momentum, community members will call the school and reach out to Lower to express interest in becoming a mentor.

Slicer Champions has nearly doubled in the last year and now has 120 students and roughly 100 mentors. La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is listed among these 100 mentors and still keeps in contact with a recent graduate he advised through Slicer Champions.

“Tom Dermody was a mentor for a young man who graduated last year and ended up moving to a different state to become a correctional officer. Every time he comes back here, he’s always stopping by City Hall to touch base with him,” Lower said.

“We’re starting to see that these relationships are more meaningful than just a school-based relationship; they’re making personal connections. It’s cool for the students to have an adult, who got to see what they did in their educational careers, now see what they do in their adult careers,” Lower added.

As American Licorice Company has been involved in Slicer Champions since the program began, many American Licorice Company employees have volunteered to serve as mentors over the years. Lower is grateful for all community mentors who have volunteered over the years and would like to thank American Licorice Company for pitching the idea for Slicer Champions and continuing to offer support as the program grows.

“American Licorice has been the backbone of our program. Not only have they continuously supported our program financially year after year but we are also getting mentors from their organization quite often. This year, seven mentors are from American Licorice,” Lower said.

To learn more about American Licorice Company’s community involvement, visit its website here.