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Non-Profit Mentoring Programs Help Kids Succeed 

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There’s a lot to love about local nonprofit organizations. Not only do they provide a wide variety of indispensable services to our community, they also provide unique mentoring opportunities designed to help local kids succeed. “Mentoring programs might be one of the most valuable ways for communities to readily support themselves,” said Craig Orona, director of mentoring and community support for Sierra Vista Child and Family Services, a private nonprofit agency that has been helping Central Valley children and families in crisis since 1972. “By simply making connections, youth can find outlets for personal growth and schoolwork support, parents can find a supporter to assist in their child’s development, teachers can have their work reinforced, and mentors can grow from engaging with their mentees,” Orona explained. “It takes little time on all ends and everyone benefits.”

Sierra Vista’s Regional Mentoring Alliance (RMA) strives to make a difference in the lives of children in our community by facilitating and providing quality mentoring services and offering mentoring training, technical assistance, support services, and a school-based mentoring program. “Studies show that mentoring is one of the most powerful forces in education,” Orona reported. “A young person who meets regularly with a mentor is 52 percent less likely to drop out of school and 46 percent less likely to use drugs.” Mentoring can also reduce teen pregnancy by 35 percent and violent behavior by 52 percent.

Since October, Sierra Vista has managed Modesto City Schools’ mentoring activities, which include mentor screening, support, and training services. “This new partnership includes a mentoring program at Burbank Elementary School that is designed to improve the achievement of struggling students by promoting success in multiple realms,” Orona said.

Students are matched with trained, compatible adult mentors who provide a quality mentoring program that follows best practices, and mentors meet with the students for an hour a week throughout the school year.

“Sierra Vista provides trained staff to offer direct support as well as provide engaging activities and a safe place for mentors and mentees to meet,” Orona added. “The goal is to build positive relationships that focus on supporting the social and academic development of the students and enhance the students’ overall school experiences.”

High school graduation is the goal of the Graduation Coach Program operated by the United Way of Stanislaus County in partnership with the Center for Human Services, and it’s been a great success.

“At the launch of the Graduation Coach program, 50 percent of the participating students had below a C average,” reported Sarah Jamieson, vice president of fund development for United Way of Stanislaus County, which has been a leader in local philanthropy for more than 60 years. “By the end of the second year, 11.5 percent of those students had raised their grade point averages above a 2.0 — an approximate 10 percent improvement in performance over other at-risk students not enrolled in the program.”

One school site saw 6.1 percent of Graduation Coach students increase their grade point averages above a C average. During the same period, the percentage of at-risk students not involved in the program who fell below a C average almost doubled, rising from 16.2 percent to 30 percent.

“The Graduation Coach Program is a strategic approach to academic mentoring,” Jamieson explained. “Each coach works closely with approximately 35 students and their parents to build a clear path to graduation, remove any barriers to their success and connect them to any community resources they may need to succeed.”

Since its inception in 2013, the Graduation Coach program has grown from three school sites with three coaches serving 120 students to seven school sites with eight coaches serving 280 students.

“This rapid expansion and the growing interest we have received from additional school sites is an indication of the need for these services for students,” Jamieson said. “The Graduation Coach program is directly impacting the lives of the young people who are the future of our community, and we need the financial support of our community to continue the program.”

“The greatest accomplishment of our Graduation Coach Program is the change in students’ mindsets as the coaches provide them with the tools for academic success and create a road map showing the students how to be successful,” Jamieson continued. “Those students working with a graduation coach now have the knowledge that they matter. The coaches have provided these students with the hope and belief in their abilities to be successful

in school.”

In addition to the Graduation Coach Program, the Center for Human Services operates several youth development and leadership programs, noted Kate Trompetter, development and communications director.

“Our mission is to change lives and build futures through programs that strengthen and support youth and families,” Trompetter said. “While these are not formal mentorship programs, our staff and volunteers are working with youth throughout Stanislaus County to develop their skills so they can feel more confident and self-assured, and become contributing, successful members of our community.”

For information:

Regional Mentoring Alliance and how to support it,

visit www.sierravistacares.org.

Graduation Coach Program and how to support it,

visit www.uwaystan.org and www.centerforhumanservices.org.

By Jacqui D. Sinarle

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