The following was originally published by NYKids through the University at Albany.
By Jessie Tobin & Kristen C. Wilcox
Crown Point Central School was one of seven schools NYKids investigated in the 2018 College and Career Readiness (CCR) study and was also highlighted in the CCR youth-focused study of 2020. It was through this interest in Crown Point, that the organization called College and Career for Every Student (CFES) Brilliant Pathways and NYKids became acquainted as Crown Point has been a CFES school for several years. Since then, NYKids has served on the CFES advisory board and has been honored to attend their annual conferences—including the latest, 31st annual conference on November 7th at the Sagamore Resort on Lake George NY.
CFES Brilliant Pathways is an organization dedicated to enhancing the college and career readiness skills of America’s youth, particularly those from low-income backgrounds. CFES focuses attention on what they term “Essential Skills” (e.g., networking).
At the two-day global conference, both virtual and in-person educators, business partners, and school leaders gathered to learn about CFES’ approach to college and career readiness and network with each other.
Why Focusing on Mentoring Matters
CFES’ “New Beginnings” conference theme centers attention on innovations in education which promote access to college enrollment and opportunities for youth to develop the necessary skills to persist through higher education. This is particularly salient in the wake of the pandemic and during a time of declining college enrollments and renewed strategies to increase college retention throughout the country.
Conference leaders also provided insight into how to prepare youth to develop their employment skills and step into good paying careers upon high-school graduation.
One recommendation in CFES’ “10 Point Plan” for CCR relates to mentoring—seeking for each young person to have a mentor whether bound for college or the workplace. As NYKids’ study findings suggest, mentoring programs can help support positive peer relationships that can, in turn, significantly impact a youth’s aspirations and desire to persist in secondary school and pursue post-secondary education.
Promising Practices in Mentoring
At the global conference, CFES conference leaders provided examples from their experiences implementing mentorship programs at schools around the country. These programs include peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities as well as opportunities for community member and staff mentoring of students.
CFES leaders stressed the importance of these programs involving youth and adults in the whole school and reach out to the community to build a culture of holistic support. CFES, peer-to-peer mentorship activity examples include 4th grade reading buddies for pre-kindergarten students and school tie-dye t-shirt events during which students share their goals with mentors and staff. Additional activities highlighted included crafting and posting positive signs to build relationships around schools, engaging in art making, and organizing college tours.
CFES partner school mentors can be high school students who work with younger student mentees as well as staff and community members who mentor high school students. Mentors participate in training programs and have opportunities to collaborate with mentors in other schools.
Summing Up Recommendations from CFES Leaders for Starting a Mentor Program
- Start small and build up the program from there – you can start off by having older students eat lunch with younger students
- Share leadership responsibilities for mentor programming with other staff
- Scheduling can be tricky – try to make use of time already built into schedules (e.g., scheduled advisory periods)
- Take on ownership of the program and bring a well-formed plan to administrators
- Tap into CFES resources: https://brilliantpathways.org/our-program/educational-resources/
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