Academic mentoring has proven to be successful in helping at-risk students stay in high school and go on to higher education. Mentoring is typically part of a comprehensive approach that involves counselling, parent involvement, peer tutoring and participation in after-school activities to help students learn and become productive, happy adults.
Why Mentoring is Important
Mentoring programs encourage at-risk students to become more involved with their education and stay in school. According to Resources for Welfare Decisions, students who do not complete high school earn less, have higher rates of unemployment, have more health problems, and are more inclined to go on welfare and engage in illegal activities. Society also suffers because of lost tax revenue that can amount to billions of dollars.
Resources for Welfare Decisions notes that the students who are most at risk for dropping out of high school are those from lower income families. Many of these students feel alienated from the traditional school environment. Along with other initiatives like improved counselling and parent involvement, these at-risk students benefit from the academic and emotional support they receive from mentoring.
Creating Support Networks
Schools can help these students by creating support networks that meet student's academic and personal needs. This support encourages a sense of belonging to the school community. Mentoring programs create partnerships between students and a caring adult associated with the high school. Students react positively to adults who help them set goals and develop competence by developing specific skills and knowledge to improve their academic and social skills. Training and follow-up is important for both the mentor and the student.
The Middle College High School Program
At Middle College High School, mentors come from the community to help students. Mentors from local businesses, colleges and community groups form one-on-one relationships with students to help them deal with problems and to provide tutoring. These role models meet with their students twice a month or more and contact the student weekly. A focus of the mentoring program is to encourage these high school students to further their education by attending a school for higher education. The program has met with success with an improved graduation rate and with students obtaining scholarship grants for college.
United Way Academic Mentoring Program
The Academic Mentoring Program by the United Way in place in the Iowa City Community School District helps students up to grade 12 by matching them with a volunteer mentor. The Big Brother Big Sister organisation screens the mentors. Mentors and students meet weekly at school and participate in optional summer activities within the community. The goal of the mentoring program is to enable students to enjoy learning and become successful academically. The mentoring program ensures that the parents and teachers stay actively involved in each student's individualised mentoring plan.