Laurel Shultz loves to tell stories about student success.
As program director for Communities in Schools of Peninsula, she tells stories about the student who speaks English as a second language and came in two months before an essential algebra test. They managed to pass with the double help of a site coordinator and a mentor.
Or the student at Minter Creek Elementary who came in with reading trouble and left after they rose three grade levels in reading — meeting their grade level and going above.
“This cool flowering of a student,” is the way Shultz described it.
CISP is continuing its mentoring program this year. The program is benefitting from new money — a $10,000 grant specifically for the program and a $70,000 anonymous donation. The program recently was singled out on the national Communities in Schools website.
Mentoring is just one of the group’s programs, but it’s a big investment of time and grant money. The program helps students in reading and math after school by using one-on-one time with a mentor.
At the high school level, the program also addresses goal-setting and future plans. It’s an approach that takes in the whole student, not just grades.
During the busy school day, one-on-one time is not a luxury afforded to teachers, executive director Colleen Speer said. That’s where the mentorship helps out.
Personal mentoring is an opportunity for relationship and the benefits are “empowering,” Shultz said.
“We have established our niche,” Speer said of the mentoring program.
Students from first grade through high school benefit from a group of mentors and site coordinators who provide an after-school space for student improvement. The program is in eight elementary and middle schools, as well as Henderson Bay and Peninsula high schools.
The program is just booting up for the school year because students are recommended after the first round of tests and parent-teacher conferences, Speer said.
Safeco awarded the program a $10,000 grant specifically for the mentoring program. The anonymous donation of $70,000 covers the mentoring but also emergency needs for students such as shoes and eyeglasses, Speer said. The donation is the largest she’s seen in her 10 1/2 years with the program.
Donations and grants help fund the salary of the site coordinators, who, among other duties, train volunteers and assign them to students.
The expansion of the program is down to the strength of the people helping out, Shultz said. The program started in 2000 with just one site coordinator and one mentor at Vaughn Elementary. Now, Speer estimates, there are 150 volunteers in the 10 schools covered.
The aim is consistency. Shultz has been there seven years, but many volunteers have been around for as many as nine.
“We have a common core (of people) at each of our program sites,” she said.
Students, once they reach their grade level, can graduate from the program. Some students stay in the program with the same mentor for multiple years. The measure is achievement, not time.
“Sometimes it does take more than one program year,” Schultz said.
In the annual report card for 2012, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction showed the graduation rate in Washington schools is about 77 percent. That means about one in four students do not graduate statewide.
CISP aims to improve that number through its programs. This year, the mentoring program, with the donations of money and time, is running again on the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas.Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com.