But if you’ve ever considered being a mentor, I encourage you to take the leap. Reputable programs like the ones I discuss below take great care of their mentors, providing you with training and support the whole time. And the personal rewards are tremendous. In the Fall 2009 issue of GivingCity Austin, we talked to Clayton Christopher, then-CEO of SweetLeaf Tea and a Big Brother of almost six years. (See him photographed with his “Little”, Andrew, right.) He told us, “Nothing brings me more joy than when I see…the positive effect on Andrew’s life. It doesn’t feel like a time commitment when it’s something you get pleasure out of.”
Moreover, your relationship with a student might be the one that changes his or her life for the better, too. It’s been shown over and over again that when students have positive adult relationship in their lives, it leads to their overall success. Remember, the students in these programs are selected because they lack an adult role model, (most of them have parents, it’s friends and role models that they need) so when you step up and tell them how important school is, help them visualize a future and, most of all, prove to them that someone really cares because you show up every time — sometimes that’s all it takes to help these kids stay on track.
Last year, AISD reported that graduation rates in the district were at an all-time high: 82.5 percentage points, a 2.5 percentage point increase from the previous year. In fact, since 2008, graduation rates among AISD’s high school seniors have risen steadily from 74.3 to 82.5 percent. It’s proof that Austin students want to succeed. Now we just have to show them that we have their backs.
Please note: Each of these programs asks volunteers to go through mandatory criminal background checks and training. You’ll need to complete and submit applications, so apply now in order to be a mentor or tutor this school year.
Communities in Schools offers mentoring and tutoring programs through local schools, from elementary to high school. Volunteer spots are open for mentoring during school and after school, some opportunities require as little as one hour a week.
Austin Partners in Education recruits and trains volunteer tutors and mentors to lead very small groups of students through curriculum-focused instruction. APIE places mentors at school across the city.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is less focused on school work and more focused on overall support. BBBS makes a special call-out to men of color — Hispanic and African-American — since many of the young people seeking a Big are boys of color. It may sound simplistic, but when a Hispanic boy sees the success of a Hispanic man, for example, it can help him visualize his own success.
Breakthrough Austin has a “whatever it takes” philosophy that’s focused on getting more economically disadvantaged students to four-year colleges. Students enroll in the program in middle school and are given year-round case management all the way through high school graduation. They need academic coaches, after-school homework helpers and college application coaches.
Click through and learn more. Then take a chance and sign up!