Monday, April 23, 2007

Mentoring program needs volunteers

Entry by: Amber Kiggens-Leifheit, Pathway Partners, Program Coordinator

Pathway Partners’ mission is “to expose high school students to nurturing relationships with caring adults and to the diversity of opportunities and experiences in our community. We feel that these experiences will enhance student’s life skills and enable them to make successful transitions to post high school education and employment.”

Students and mentors are matched according to similar interests, hobbies, or career paths. Pathway Partners has been mentoring students at Marshfield High School for 8 years, helping more than 540 students. We are a United Way Partner Program and also get funding from our bi-yearly fundraisers, Altrusa, Good Sheppard Lutheran Church and community donations.

The program is open to all students at Marshfield High School. We work in close collaboration with students with disabilities, students who are credit deficient and students at the Alternative High School. We have a wide variety of students, all ability levels, and many diverse interests. There are close to 100 mentor-student matches this year.

Our statistics show being mentored by an adult substantially helps students make career plans. 100 percent of the students mentored have graduated, compared to 96.3 percent of the student population at Marshfield High School. 78.5 percent went to college or technical school compared to 74.7 percent of their respective classmates.

Positive effects are seen in student grades, school attendance, behavior and reduced detentions. Other benefits include increased self-confidence, positive attitude and communication skills. In a recent survey, 100 percent of our graduates said they would recommend this program to younger students. Many commented the program improved their ability to talk with adults, offered them another perspective other than their parents and gave them confidence in their career choice so they were able to declare a major before entering college, saving them time and money.

The ratio of guidance counselors to students at MHS is 340:1. Students need more help than a guidance counselor with that kind of case load can offer. Mentors listen, give advice; often with a different perspective than the student’s parent. Mentors are an advocate for the students. A mentor’s goal is to see that the student is successful. You can never have too many people in the student’s corner.

Some studies have shown those students who are first generation; meaning that their parents have not gone on to higher education, especially benefit from a mentor who helps them to see possible alternatives. These young people do not know about all the possibilities that exist unless someone takes an interest in them. They often have trouble once they get to college, because they do not know what to expect. A mentor often helps students to reach for higher goals, encouraging them. Young women often need encouragement to strive for a higher goal.

The best way for the student to decide if they really want to pursue a career is to see first hand what goes on at a business or workplace. Mentors help students apply to colleges, wade through mountains of paperwork and apply for scholarships. Some mentors report their students really have everything figured out and they are more or less a sounding board, someone who can listen.

We ask that all mentors meet once a month for an hour with their student. Mentors could ideally work with the same student for the student’s whole high school career. Many mentors are still in touch with their students during college and afterwards, having made a long lasting friendship.

We need volunteers. We are looking for caring, responsible adult volunteers, who are willing to share their knowledge with a student. To volunteer call 387-8464 ext 384 or e-mail: