Success Mentors Districts Convene to Share Promising School-Integrated Mentoring Practices
SEPTEMBER 28, 2017
BY: DELIA HAGAN, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, MENTOR: THE NATIONAL MENTORING PARTNERSHIP
On September 19th and 20th, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership was invited to participate in the Success Mentor Peer Learning Convening, a meeting of Success Mentors program leaders from 30 diverse school districts across the country, facilitated by the National Student Attendance, Engagement and Success Center (NSAESC). The 30 districts that are a part of this initiative launched Success Mentors programs as a part of the White House My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Success Mentors Initiative in 2016, and have continued them with the support of the NSAESC, a new technical assistance center funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students. Success Mentors is a mentoring model that focuses on facilitating relationships between students and mentors in the school environment to help reduce chronic absenteeism and help schools meet critical student and family needs.
The event featured presentations and expertise from national partners including MENTOR, Jobs for the Future, Johns Hopkins University, Everyone Graduates Center, Attendance Works, and Facebook’s inspirED. I was joined by representatives from several MENTOR affiliates who have been providing support to Success Mentors districts through training and technical assistance, including Whitney Mastin of Midlands Mentoring Partnership, Dave Martus of Mentor Michigan, and Beth Fraster of Mass Mentoring. Our team was present to share tools and resources with school leaders on how to create a culture of mentoring across a school and district, and to lead workshops on innovative techniques to support mentor-student relationships as well as trauma-informed mentoring. Check out some of the tools and resources from these sessions here.
One of the most effective parts of this event was the sharing of stories and insights among school and district leaders about the innovative strategies they use to build relationships in their schools and manage school-integrated mentoring programs. These leaders expressed great passion and commitment to facilitating, promoting and enabling relationship-building for students with the goal of truly understanding and meeting student needs. I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation led by Darrin Person, Manager of Fresno Unified School District (FUSD)’s mentoring programs, who presented on the portfolio of mentoring models, strategies and partnerships that FUSD employs to meet the diverse needs of their students.
“Our belief is that students, if given the opportunity, can do great things,” said Darrin Person.
Darrin shared that Fresno’s suite of mentoring programs provide students with options tailored to their specific needs, and allow the district to serve more youth than they could with just one model. The district employs peer mentoring, e-mentoring, and group mentoring in addition to more traditional one-to-one pairings of students and mentors. Their e-mentoring program involves students and mentors engaging once per week through a secure online platform monitored by district staff, in addition to periodic in-person meetings throughout the year. This model has enabled the school to partner with mentors that have limited time but valuable skills and perspectives - for example, lawyers and judges from a local Bar Association.
The district also provides a comprehensive peer mentoring program, which connects paid high school mentors with middle school students during structured after-school activities and team-building retreats. Director of Student Support Services at FUSD, Caine Christensen, added that this model has allowed the district to provide tailored supports for specific communities of youth to meet their unique needs. For example, after several Southeast Asian students faced issues with suicidality, a peer mentoring initiative was launched to support this community of youth in their transition from middle to high school, enabling high school mentors to build connections with middle school students in this community, share common experiences, and provide encouragement.
The district also supports tailored group programming for young women of color through their Girl Power program, and young men of color through their Young Men of Character Program. Partnerships with community-based organizations, like Hand-in-Hand, have deepened impact, while training Child Welfare and Attendance Specialists (CWAS) to facilitate group programming has helped connect students and families with needed resources that can address barriers to attendance.
It was fascinating to learn from Darrin, Caine and other district leaders about the mentoring approaches they have used to integrate mentoring into their school district. Learn more about Fresno Unified School District’s Mentoring Initiative here.
Learn more about the National Student Attendance, Engagement and Success Center by visiting their webpage or signing up for their listserv here. You can also register for their fall virtual convening, which will be held on October 24th and 25th here (deadline is 10/18). Hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Safe and Healthy Students and its National Student Attendance, Engagement, and Success Center (NSAESC) and featuring MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, this free virtual event will offer 2 days of plenaries and breakout sessions on topics like Utilizing Early Warning Systems, Responding to the Every Student Succeeds Act, Meeting the Educational Needs of Students with Specific Needs, and Implementing Success Mentors Programs.