Mentoring MATTERS, a program targeted at potential dropouts at Myers Park High School, will work year-round with nearly 30 students and about 16 mentors on leadership development, character education and academic achievement.
The previous school year, the program started with a few volunteers and stopped when school ended in May.
Why continue to work with Myers Park High School - traditionally known for high-performing, students?
“Our mentoring program is designed to help with Myers Park’s graduation rate,” according to Kimberly Roseboro, CEO and founder of Firm Foundations of the Carolinas, Inc., which runs Mentoring MATTERS. “We selected MPHS because we learned of the large pool of students that perform significantly lower than their counterparts. Due to MPHS’ reputation, the community does not really rally behind these under-performing students like they do at other schools, primarily Title 1 Schools.”
Roseboro said that mentoring as a strategy supports the goal of reducing dropout rates. She added that research shows it has “significant” positive effects on early indicators of high school dropouts: absenteeism and behavior problems.
“We are working with the MPHS administration to address the needs of that economically disadvantaged group through mentoring ,” said Roseboro. “We saw a need and a lack of support as compared to other schools. The school, the PTSO and the participating students have been great partners and have supported the program.”
Jason Kline, assistant principal at Myers Park, said the program has been “effective in keeping these kids we’ve identified on track and where we want them to be.”
He explained that the school tried a mentoring program three years ago, but noted “real solutions” when Mentoring MATTERS stepped in last year. The school had identified about 800 to 1,000 at-risk students and 200 students that could be helped by mentoring, he said.
“With the students who have been involved in the mentoring program, we have seen improvement in grades, improvements in absenteeism and a decrease in disciplinary action,” said Kline, adding that Myers Park graduation rate was 82 percent three years ago and improved to 90 percent last year.
Roseboro’s group, Firm Foundations of the Carolinas, Inc., is a nonprofit targeting youth and families using programs that “educate, inspire and empower.” In additional to their Mentoring MATTERS program, the group also runs Family MATTERS to provide family support services and Youth MATTERS, which focuses on after school, weekend and summer camp programs.
Working with a handful of volunteer mentors trained in guided conversation and on-going communication, Mentoring MATTERS tried a pilot program last school year focusing on one-on-one mentoring.
Since December, the organization has tried a different approach: group mentoring.
Roseboro said they have 30 students in the program with 16 mentors. The groups, separated by gender, meet weekly and go to dinner, service group projects or other excursions once a month.
Roseboro initiated a “Steps Towards Womanhood” program for female students and “It’s Game Time” for the males, who also have a basketball league and weekly “huddle meetings.”
During those meetings, volunteer male mentors teach about the “the game of life” and use a lesson plan to help guide their discussion.
Roseboro said the young women in the program also have a specific topic of discussion each week.
“Incentives are based on their participation in the program and school performance,” she said.
She added that students are evaluated when they first enter the program and volunteers create a personal success plan, establishing short and long term goals.
As Mentoring MATTERS moves into other schools, the group is looking for more mentors. Recruitment is open to anyone willing to commit to at least six hours per month, commit to the program for a year, attend orientation, ongoing trainings and clear a criminal background check.
“Though this age group is not younger youth, the need is still there,” said Roseboro. “Rather than ‘write off’ our teens and say that it’s too late to change their behavior we must provide opportunities for them to be a part of something positive and life changing.”
Conroy: 704-358-5353; Twitter: @ConroyKathleen
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