Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mentoring for College and Career Success

Photo from K-20 GEAR UP for Success page

So many practical yet energizing mentoring strategies are helping middle school and high school youths see and plan for college and careers.  For example, Stacy Harris, mentoring coordinator for GEAR UP for the PROMISE, K-20 Center, shared recently that her program aimed at Oklahoma City middle school youths is branching out with a forensic science activity. Development is being considered for banking/finance and medical components.  The GEAR UP mentors, primarily STEM professionals from Oklahoma City metro businesses, are having fun and sharing their passions and life/career paths.  Middle schoolers expand their vision and skills, and both students and parents are learning about future probabilities.  Below is a still applicable column about mentoring and future success.  Older students need mentoring, too!

"Mentoring for teens keeps doors open to college success"
Mentoring benefits students, but also mentors and communities.
Research indicates that college graduates experience better health, higher lifetime earnings and decreased chance of unemployment, more job satisfaction and increased educational attainment for their children.
While there are significant benefits to education after high school, students need motivation and support to develop a vision and complete the steps for their futures that includes graduation from high school and post-high school education. Every year thousands of Oklahoma students embark on a journey to higher education; students need more and more information and guidance to be successful.

Youths attribute much of their motivation for a college degree to their family members' encouragement beginning when they were young. Yet, by middle school, they acknowledge a reliance on mentors from the larger community to provide informed guidance and support to aid them in pursuing their visions for the future fostered by their families.

There are many different ways mentors can become involved with youths. When thinking of mentoring, most people think of traditional or one-on-one mentoring which matches one adult with one youth. Meeting regularly over an extended period of time, whether in person or online via supervised chat and email, the pair may discuss a range of issues including academics, careers, interests and concerns.

Mentoring, however, occurs across an array of other formats. Group mentoring, for example, matches one adult with a group of two to four youths. Another form of mentoring is team mentoring that matches two to three adults with a group of youths in a maximum ratio of one adult to four youths. Both group mentoring formats feature a curriculum for sessions to help young people make good decisions, set goals, investigate careers and build a personal relationship with a caring adult who is a positive role model.

Youths who participate in structured mentoring relationships experience a number of positive benefits, according to the Child Trends research brief “Mentoring: A Promising Strategy for Youth Development.” In terms of health and safety, mentoring appears to help prevent substance abuse and reduce some negative youth behaviors.

Socially and emotionally, mentoring programs promote positive attitudes and relationships. Mentored youths tend to communicate better with their parents and experience a higher degree of trust with them. In addition, mentored youths exhibit a better attitude toward and attendance at school. Engaging in relationships with caring adult role models increases students' chances of successfully completing their education.

Benefits are not limited to youths. Adult mentors and communities also indicate positive outcomes of mentoring. In general, communities see decreases in substance abuse, teen pregnancy, school dropout and juvenile crime. Mentors report feelings of increased self-esteem, self-confidence, leadership skills and affirmation of professional competence. In addition, mentors expand their own personal and professional networks, model positive volunteerism and share their own love of learning.

Good mentors are invaluable assets. In a survey of 5,000 high school students conducted by the nonprofit What Kids Can Do (WKCD) organization, youths were clear about the challenges they faced gathering support to be successful and continue their education beyond high school. While school counselors and teachers provide information and support, students identified they need other caring adults to provide the individual attention needed to help meet the challenges they face.

Challenges may include being the first in the family to attend college or living up to expectations of the family for college graduation.

Leslie Williams is director of the K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma. This column is offered by the K20 Center Gear Up for SUCCESS and PROMISE programs. For more information about the programs, go to For more about college preparation, go to or call 225-9239

Published: December 23, 2012   Ret. 10-1-13

See what the K-20 Center is doing for Oklahoma!

No comments:

Post a Comment