On May 8, 2012, Holy Family School hosted a Roundtable for fellow STC Chicago members. Produced by STC Chicago (myself and Jennifer Husbands), the focus of the Roundtable was Holy Family’s mentoring program.
The mentoring program matches Holy Family’s 8th graders with young professionals, on a one-to-one basis, who support the students through the process of researching, applying, and being admitted to a quality high school that fits their unique needs and interests. The idea for the program came from experience and observation as Holy Family consistently saw students struggle once they transitioned to high school.
Kicking off in August, the mentoring program provides structured activities on a monthly basis through March with the express purpose of aiding students’ transition to high school. Holy Family also provides parents with programming to help them understand the high school application process, scholarship opportunities, and financial aid options.
Prior to the August session where mentors and mentees meet for the first time, mentors undergo nearly four hours of training and learn about connecting with 13 year olds and their parents, Chicago high schools, and the application process. The mentors are a mixture of alums of Holy Family, children of donors, and employees of local businesses that support Holy Family. The mentorship is a big commitment for the young professionals, but Holy Family’s orientation, training, and structure help minimize attrition, one of the chief concerns voiced by those in attendance.
Once the program officially begins, mentors and mentees review the student’s academic records, research schools and build a calendar of key dates for the preferred schools, develop personal statements, and participate in mock interviews, amongst other activities. Students are also encouraged to attend high school fairs, must go on at least 3 shadow days, and also participate in test prep sessions for entrance exams.
Students are required to participate in the program and are graded based on attendance at events (contributes to social studies grade).
Schools in attendance left with some very useful resources and ideas about how they can start their own mentoring program. The Roundtable proved once again that great things can happen when cross-sector collaboration is facilitated; including discussion of potentially arranging an STC Regional High School Fair in the years to come.