Mentor Blog

The definition of a mentor is an “experienced and trusted advisor.”

The definition of success is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

Put these two terms together and a powerful San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) program called Mentoring for Success means that there are currently 620 schoolchildren in the city being afforded a better chance of achieving academically–and in life in general.

PrintMentoring for Success is a school-based mentoring program that provides kids with highly qualified and effective mentors who engage these students in asset-building activities to build skills for school success, thereby improving attendance and increasing self-esteem.

This is especially important in poorer-performing schools, such as the four schools of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN). There are currently 35 mentors at Brant Elementary School, 20 at Everett Middle School and nine at O’Connell High School. There are plans to implement the program at Cesar Chavez Elementary School this fall.

While many of these mentors are associated with the schools—social worker, advisor, principal, nurse or the like—Mentoring for Success’ task is to bring in volunteers from the outside, as they offer a different perspective.

The process starts with a student being identified as needing extra assistance. The family is then contacted to ascertain that they are open to the idea of a mentor for their child. Once such consent is given, mentors are matched with mentees. The criterion for the match is there being a common interest.

Much of the mentoring is activity driven. For instance, the San Francisco Giants recently donated 20 tickets, with a score of Bryant Elementary students being taken somewhere they had seen only on their TV screen.  Also at Bryant this school year was the project of creating items for a goodie bag for “Thank a Teacher Day.”

Erin-FarrellErin Farrell, Learning Support Professional at Mentoring for Success for the past seven years, explains the logistics: “A one-year commitment is asked of the mentor, as it takes time to nurture the relationship, with communication and visits even occurring over the summer, so as not to lose touch. Mentoring for Success acts as a conduit for the school’s internal workers, as we will find them mentors to add to their team of volunteers.”

One-to-One Mentoring Summary

  • The program matches adults with students to meet weekly for approximately one hour a week, preferably on a specific day and time.
  • Students are referred to the mentor program by school staff. Students must willingly participate and parent consent is required.
  •  Mentors are provided with extensive training.
  • A Mentor Program Coordinator at each site manages all aspect of the program to support mentors and their student mentees.
  • Mentors engage in a variety of asset-building activities with students on school grounds. The Mentor Program Coordinator will have many ideas for activities and games.
  • Group activities that engage students and their mentors in leadership development, team building activities and community service are held during the school year and in the summer months.

Darren Gapultos, Education Manager of MPN, expounds on the import of Mentoring for Syccess: “The journey of our children into adulthood can be a scary and unpredictable one. That’s what makes the Mentoring for Success program so important to our MPN-supported schools. Mentors provide children additional stable adult support at the school site from people who will listen to them, who will let them know what their strengths are and who will gently nudge them in the right direction. Something as simple as a trusting relationship between a child and an adult can lead to a successful journey for our youth.”

Gapultos has firsthand experience with such a positive transformation, having been a volunteer at Mentoring for Success. He has mentored youths from broken homes—children with a deep mistrust of adults. Through many weeks of developing relationships with students who come from these adverse childhood experiences, students become more trusting of adults and begin improving their success at the school sites.

Would you like to help?
Mentoring for Success is always looking for volunteers, as the number of children in need of such assistance is vast. This is a great way to give back to the community, and all are welcome. Mentoring for Success is especially seeking mentors from the Mission District, with people of color most needed.

Upcoming mentor training dates:
Thursday, August 21st, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Thursday, September 25th, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Saturday, October 25th, 10:00am-1:00pm
Tuesday, November 17th, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Thursday, January 15th, 5:30pm-8:30pm

To become a mentor, please contact:
Tom Laursen
Volunteer Engagement Coordinator
San Francisco Education Fund
(415) 695-5400 ext. 3024
tlaursen@sfedfund.org

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