Student Opportunities

The Impact of Mentors

The month of January is National Mentoring Month for 2017. This month focuses around “Thanking a Mentor” day and “I Am a Mentor” day. These days show that we need to appreciate and look back at those who helped us get where we are today. Mentors are individuals that have experience in a particular field that a student might be interested in and helps guide them towards successful lives. In Flagler County students are able to make connections with teachers and staff at school or where they work, who can then become their mentors. Either they can do this be creating the connection themselves or being part of bigger programs such as Take Stock in Children.

There are certain programs in Flagler County that help students throughout high school by assigning them mentors. This program functions statewide and is called Take Stock in Children. It helps students from low-income families stay on track towards a successful college education. Take Stock works with over 800 schools in Florida and provides guidelines that students need to meet in order to be considered for the program.

Finding someone to coach you throughout high school isn’t as complicated as being part of a special program; a mentor advises a student on problems or work that is crucial to their success. Any teacher that you already have a connection with has most likely mentored you in one way or another. Sharing who your mentor is and how they left an impact on your life was part of this month. Both Mr. Edward Cox and Mrs. Courtney VandeBunte, who are teachers at Flagler Palm Coast High School, wanted to share some of their memories during time spent with a mentor.



Mr. Edward Cox

Mr. Cox is a Chemistry and Algebra 1 teacher –

“As far as my career, it started with my high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Norma Ashburn. She had such an impact on me that I live by to this day. When I was in high school, I was an average student (nothing spectacular-top 1/3rd of the class, but out of 100, I was #33). Anyway, my junior year, she caught me in the hallway and talked me into taking AP Chemistry (a class I had no business taking at the time). She said I would be fine and should take it, which I did. I struggled miserably the whole year, in a class with the top 10 seniors in the school, but passed the exam in the spring. She actually called me at home after the scores came out in the summer.

She said, ‘You shouldn’t have been in AP Chemistry. I was walking to the principal’s office to tell him we couldn’t offer the class because I didn’t have enough students signed up. I saw you in the hallway and talked you into it, so I could have enough students to offer the course. You passed when some of the top students in the school didn’t. I am proud of you.’

Hearing that and then reflecting about it (then and even now over the years), I have come to realize that it’s not about the hand you’re dealt. It’s about playing the hand you’re dealt like it’s the one you want. Life gives you opportunities (in this case, Mrs. Ashburn gave me one) and YOU have to decide what to do with it. I had no idea I didn’t belong in the class. I just treated it like I was supposed to and did everything I could do to be successful in it.  

Not only was Mrs. Norma a major influence, but both Darwin Rost and Dave Castro were part of teaching me how to be a better person.

These 2 guys began my love of coaching football many years ago. Coach Rost taught me to prioritize things into ‘Family, Faith, and then Football’. He stressed to make sure to keep those things in order, otherwise you will fail. ‘All you have is your faith and your family. Football won’t always be there.’ He demonstrated to me that he could be a high level head coach and a great father to his sons. Regardless of what was going on, he always made time to see his boys play youth football, soccer or whatever they were into. He brought them to practices, games and everywhere we went (even summer football camps). He taught me about leading with actions and not words.

Dave Castro was my mentor in teaching me the details of the game of football and also a great friend. Riding our Harley’s all over Nevada, California, parts of Arizona and Utah were some of the best times I can remember. The most impactful thing he shared with me was when he got really sick and was hospitalized during a game week. I had to take over and make our scouting packets and playbook for the players. His versions were always handwritten and I (wanting to be “new”) typed up what I came up with for the week. I went to show him my playbook for the week in the hospital to get his “blessing” and then give it to the kids. On his hospital bed, he thumbed through the pages and then handed it back to me. He said, ‘I like the scheme to defend the team we play, but your playbook sucks.’ I was taken aback, since I had worked all weekend on it trying to impress him and all he did was scoff at it. He then said, ‘When you hand write things, it is personal. The kids need to know that what you are giving them is personal and means something to you. You took the time to write in all the details, so don’t type it. They need to know that you spent time in preparing them to win, just like you expect them to.’ This realization has stuck with me throughout my career and still to this day, I hand write my playbook or cheat sheets to give to the athletes.”  



Mrs. Courtney VandeBunte

Mrs. VandeBunte is a Biology, Drawing 1&2, Anatomy, and Environmental Science teacher-

“Her name is Carla Traister and she was my high school Biology teacher. She did not inspire me to be a Biology teacher, even though that is what I ended up being, but she inspired me to make a difference with her compassion for others. Through her actions and attitude, she taught me that caring for other things is very rewarding and important. She also instilled a deep respect for nature in me through her thought provoking lectures…  

… Even in her ‘retirement’ Mrs. Traister has found a way to inspire others to make a positive difference in the world, from showing high schoolers that they CAN make a difference, to helping the less fortunate stay warm and last, but not at all least, joining in the fight to save the bees! She truly is a remarkable woman whom I admire very much and hope that when I am her age I can look back on my life’s accomplishments with half as much pride as she should have.”