When Buck Edwards attended a session for first-time mentors on Hilton Head Island, he wasn't sure what he was getting into.
Fourteen years later, Edwards has won the Champion for Public Education Award from the S.C. School Boards Association for the mentoring program he oversees.
This school year, the Impact program has placed 80 mentors with about 100 students from first through 12th grades at the four public schools on Hilton Head.
The quarterly champion award recognizes those who make a difference in local schools and encourage others to do the same. Edwards, 69, was nominated for the award by the Beaufort County School District.
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Edwards said he hopes the attention from the award brings more help for students who need guidance.
"This brings more publicity to the program, and I'm hoping I'll get some more mentors," Edwards said. "There's always about 25 to 30 kids waiting for a mentor."
That's typical for Edwards, those close to the program say. He's always recruiting help.
"His heart is so devoted to this," said Colleen Kowal, counselor at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts Elementary School, where about 40 students participate in Impact. "Buck recruits when he's in the grocery store."
Edwards estimates that several hundred students have been paired with mentors since Impact began. Mentors are trained to mostly listen to the students and to encourage them to see the connection between education and their future.
Edwards provides mentors with training and frequent tips and tricks, said Ken Raichle, who has volunteered with the program for about five years.
"He just has a boundless level of energy and enthusiasm for helping the kids and helping the mentors," Raichle said.
Edwards said teachers have told him students in his program start showing up on time and raising their hands in class more often.
"It's things like that that a lot of people take for granted," he said. "But it happens when you've got a mentor encouraging" the students.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.