Students who have quality mentors are more likely to have increased school attendance and academic achievement, demonstrate responsible decision-making, and develop skills to better navigate relationships at school and at home. In addition, at-risk students who have a mentor are 55% more likely to go to college. In honor of National Mentoring Month, we're highlighting mentoring programs at several of our GEAR UP schools.

Building Near-Peer Mentors

Pathfinders How Do I Pay for College? GameIn Cave Junction, 10th and 11th grade students from Illinois Valley High School teach 7th and 8th grade students from Lorna Byrne Middle School basic college and career information. This Pathfinders program serves multiple purposes: introducing middle school students to the concepts, reinforcing the information for high school students and developing friendships to ease the middle to high school transition.

Once per quarter, trained high school students work with small groups of middle school students using a hands-on and age-appropriate activity or game as the "lesson", covering topics like paying for college, winning scholarships, the transition to high school and goal-setting.

"The Pathfinders program has been very successful—even more so than I hoped," said Jann Taylor, the GEAR UP coordinator in Cave Junction. "The high schoolers involved last year are asking when we are going to do this again."

ASPIRE for All

At Elkton Charter School, almost every 7th-12th grader takes part in ASPIRE, a college readiness mentoring program that pairs adult volunteers from the community with students.

Volunteer mentors help students with college searches, applications, financial aid forms, completing scholarship applications and general postsecondary information. Mentors meet with their students once a month at the school and are ideally paired with a student with similar interests throughout his or her four years of high school. 89% of 9th-12th grade students at Elkton Charter School participated in ASPIRE in 2015-16.

Middle school students also benefit from Getting Ready to Aspire, a group mentoring program focusing on preparing for postsecondary education. Lessons and activities take place once per month in the classroom so all students are exposed to college and career readiness informaiton.

Exploring Future Careers

Elgin High School and Stella Mayfield Elementary School help students explore careers and develop positive relationships through the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) programs. High school leaders from the two programs serve as advisors and mentors for the middle school programs which serve over half of the student body.

FBLA and FFA offers service learning activities which helps students see connection between learning, interests and careers. 75% of students agree that the school provides practical experiences that help me learn more about my career options.

"I have seen students become focused and excited to be a part of these organizations which teaches the students life skills and exposes them to many different career paths," said Peggy Anthony, the GEAR UP coordinator in Elgin. "I just love watching kids in these programs and the confidence they gain from being involved."