January is National Mentoring Month. MENTOR National and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health launched National Mentoring Month in 2002 to raise awareness of mentoring, recruit mentors, and promote rapid growth of mentoring, according to Mentoring.org.
At Graduation Alliance, we believe in the power of mentoring and provide students with 360-degrees of support to help them thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Two team members, in particular, serve as mentors to our students: Local Advocates, who are exclusive to our dropout recovery program, and Academic Coaches, who work with K-12 and adult students alike.
Your students, whether they are enrolled in a Graduation Alliance program or not, have a variety of positive adult influences at school. While many of these people can be considered mentors, let’s dive into the definition of mentorship and see if and how mentors differ from these everyday influences.
Merriam-Webster’s essential meaning of mentor is “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.” Full definitions include, “a trusted counselor or guide” and “TUTOR, COACH.” Mentoring.org describes mentoring as “the pairing of a young person with a supportive non-parental adult or older peer.”
By these definitions, teachers and school staff definitely fall into the category of mentors.
Teachers are often responsible for a classroom of 25+ students and can’t dedicate much one-on-one time to every student. While some students may receive mentorship from teachers, others will not. The same goes for staff like school counselors. While not every teacher can mentor every student, there are things you can do to build a culture of mentoring within your institution.
Building a culture of mentoring in your schools
A culture of mentoring starts with your staff. You could implement a teacher-to-teacher mentoring program that pairs new teachers with an experienced educator. As new teachers become experienced ones, they can continue the cycle and begin to mentor new teachers.
You can also work on developing a teacher-to-student mentoring program. While teachers definitely mentor students through their job, you can take it a step further for teachers who want to step into a more rigorous mentoring role with their students.
Youth.gov provides some excellent guidelines for creating a mentoring program within your institution. Here are their recommendations:
- Design the parameters of the program. What population of students do you want to reach through this mentoring program, and who is going to provide mentoring services? Are you going to focus on a specific area like academics, personal development, or career exploration? Where are mentoring sessions going to occur? Etc.
- Plan how your program will be managed.
- Implement the program.
- Continuously evaluate the program and adjust as needed.
To build a culture of mentoring within your school, you don’t have to start an in-house program. You can also partner with mentoring organizations in your community.
The impact of mentoring on academic achievement
Mentoring impacts students in a variety of ways, including their academic achievement. At Graduation Alliance, we care about our students’ academic and personal success, but we believe that educational attainment is foundational to personal growth. We help students earn their high school diploma in a way that works for them by providing the accountability, flexibility, and support they need to thrive in an online learning environment.
Mentoring.org’s article entitled “Mentoring: An Investment in Fostering Academic Achievement” shares two ways mentoring can promote academic achievement:
- Mentors can intervene when students start to show warning signs of not finishing high school.
- Mentors can also guide students after high school graduation and help them identify their next steps, whether it’s higher education or the workforce.
Provide mentoring to your at-risk and disengaged students through Graduation Alliance
Graduation Alliance’s dropout recovery program is a turnkey education solution for your most vulnerable students. Whether they’re at-risk or have already dropped out of school, our team of re-engagement experts can help them transition into our online alternative program and graduate from high school.
Every student receives a multi-tiered system of supports that includes a Local Advocate and an Academic Coach.
Local Advocates ensure students’ social-emotional needs are being met and serve more of a traditional mentor role. They host weekly meetups where students can get together and work on homework, ask questions, and receive guidance on personal issues. Local Advocates also host community events where students from your district’s Graduation Alliance program can get to know each other and spend time with their Local Advocate. Most recently, a group of students from one of our West Coast partnerships attended a fall festival and enjoyed exploring a corn maze and spending time together.
Academic Coaches, on the other hand, help students with their academic goals. When students first enter our program, their Academic Coach helps them create a personalized academic plan and then checks in with them weekly to monitor pace and progress during their time in the program to ensure they’re staying on track.
Teachers even act as mentors to students. Grace, a student at The American Academy, really connected with her science teacher who helped her explore her interests in zoology and botany. Because of her teacher’s encouragement and recommendation, Grace enrolled in an agribusiness and plant and animal sciences summer camp that has helped develop her interest in pursuing science as a career.
In addition, our program offers free access to virtual tutoring services. If a student needs help in the middle of the night, they can reach out to a tutor to get help with homework.
These roles provide mentorship to students as well as the accountability and support students need to make it to graduation. For more information about partnering with Graduation Alliance for high school dropout recovery or adult high school programs, please fill out our request for information form.