Mentor-Scholar Program Molds Middle School, College Students
The inaugural semester of the Mentor-Scholar Program inspired both Oswego Middle School students and their SUNY Oswego partners, organizers said.
The program paired 35 city school students with Oswego State counterparts from October through December. Mentors targeted students at risk of dropping out of school before graduating.
A state Education Department report on graduation rates found that of the Oswego City School District students who began high school in 2006, 11 percent had dropped out by 2010. The Mentor-Scholar Program is intended to curb academic struggles and help with social issues as well.
"We're trying to get these students to build up their self confidence and build them up so they are happy in a school setting and actually enjoying school rather than them disliking it or having troubles academically," said Michael Marr '08, who leads the program as part of his AmeriCorps-VISTA service. Oswego State participants help with academics as well as social struggles at school or private difficulties at home.
"The biggest thing is seeing a smile on their face sometimes because for some of them schooling is really not what they want to be doing," Marr said. "Just having them be in the school setting smiling, enjoying even doing homework with their mentor is a huge step for a lot of them."
Early evalutations indicate success on both sides of the equation, Project Coordinator Patricia Waters said.
"Their anecdotal reports of the impact of the program are most moving, describing their mentor as a big sister or best friend or ‘this is really the reason I come to school,'" she said. "From our college students, we know that they're enjoying it and it is changing their perspective both of the Oswego community and their career trajectories.
"We've seen some of them who were maybe on the fence about a career in education [decide to] go into that," Waters added.
The program starts in middle school with the hope that the college mentors will stay in touch with their protégés when they enter high school.
Lauren Lipinoga '13 plans to stay connected to her city school student. She joined him and many of her fellow college and middle school Mentor-Scholar participants on a special tour of Oswego's campus Dec. 5.
"I enjoy being a positive role model," the human development major said, adding the program bolstered skills she will need to become a guidance counselor.