Following my post yesterday which highlighted organizations that mentor first generation high school students and assist them in the college application process, I was ecstatic to be contacted by individuals passionate about the value of mentoring:
I work for College Forward in Austin, Texas, and while we don’t officially use the word “mentor” (we “coach”), we provide essentially the same function.
College Forward is an AmeriCorps program, so we have roughly 40 recent college grads serving as “college coaches” or “college persistence coordinators,” who work closely with our 970 high school students and 450 collegians (all of whom are low-income and/or first-generation). We provide a raft of after-school services during a student’s junior and senior year – ACT prep, help researching and applying to college, editing essays, financial aid and literacy, etc. Once a student graduates from high school, they enroll in our persistence program, and we provide ongoing services, support, and encouragement until they earn a bachelor’s degree. So far, 99% of our kids have been accepted to college, mostly at 4-year schools, and our persistence rates are pretty great as well.
Granted, a notable difference between College Forward and the Marin program is that our volunteer coaches are AmeriCorps members, who essentially work exclusively for us for a year or two, and are paid a (very modest) living stipend. But what I think is significant about our program, the programs you mentioned in Marin and elsewhere, and other similar models, is the emphasis on building personal relationships with the students, regardless of the specific mechanism. We call our approach the “brokerage model,” which basically means we develop close ties with our students and help match our students with schools that are good fits and good values. (Take, in contrast, college access programs that focus simply on making resources available to students, with the hope that students will take advantage.)
Unfortunately, there is a relative dearth of “mentoring” or “coaching” programs. State education agencies, in particular, balk at what they perceive as our high cost per student, and are reluctant to provide support. We think these concerns are unfounded, partly due to our success, and partly because providing seven years of intensive support – junior year through baccalaureate – costs us only $4,300 per student, total. Upward Bound costs more than that per year.
Anyway, to answer the question you posed: successful mentoring/coaching college access programs I can think of off the top of my head – which all have a lot in common with College Forward – include Admission Possible (MN/WI), College Bound St. Louis, and Bottom Line (MA).
I just read your article about the Marin Education Fund. Until recently I was the senior program officer of College Access Foundation of California, the foundation created by the conversion of CHELA Education Financing. The original conversion name was The Education Financing Foundation of California. That name didn’t last long! When we converted the foundation in 2005 the board determined that the grantmaking of the foundation would be to fund California community based organizations (CBO) actively preparing underserved students for success in college. The grant funds would be used as scholarships for those students when attending 2 & 4 year campuses. Marin Education Fund was one of those grantees. As I was developing the grants portfolio from the beginning, along with our president Caroline Boitano, I sought out CBO’s with a mentoring component in their work. They include the East Bay College Fund, Bright Prospect in Pomona and the Mountain View/Los Altos Community Scholars.
Recently I have become acquainted with the California Mentor Foundation which was established by Dr Andy Mecca, California’s former drug czar under Governor Pete Wilson. In 2008 Andy created the Lifeplan Institute which created a literal life plan that mentors can use to help guide their mentees. Mentoring has an amazing effect on all young people, but is especially beneficial for underserved and first generation students.
Thanks to Joe and Ellen for your contributions in explaining your programs and service models!