It’s really not as difficult or time consuming as some people believe. But the rewards far exceed most expectations, both for the mentor and the mentee.
The College Now Mentoring Program was established in 2011 and served a small group of students who were scholarship recipients of College Now Greater Cleveland. Then and now, local volunteers with college degrees stepped up to be mentors.
Today there are 1,100 mentor/mentee pairs, featuring a one-to-one ratio and a four-year commitment. As of the 2016-2017 school year, 1,537 scholarship recipients have participated in the Mentoring Program. The students have a 93 percent first- to second-year average retention rate. The national average is 73 percent for students of similar low-income backgrounds.
The program also has a 72 percent graduation rate, based on a six-year undergraduate completion model and the results for the 2011 pilot class.
“That compares to only 42 percent nationally, so we are very excited,” says Mentoring Program Director Madeline Rife. “The Mentoring Program is changing outcomes for our program-eligible students because of the support they get in the form of scholarships and mentoring.”
Often being the first in their families to attend college, these students benefit from mentoring help that includes topics ranging from study habits to personal growth, financial concerns and career guidance, including writing resumes. Much of the success of the program is the result of the careful matches made between mentor and mentee. When possible, pairings are based on personality, shared goals and interests. Mentors from all walks of life from more than 400 Greater Cleveland companies represent health care, finance, education and other professions, as well as nonprofit organizations.
“We have individuals who were College Now students and are mentors,” says Rife.
The Mentoring Program operates in several nontraditional ways. The interaction between mentor and mentees is primarily web-based, “meeting” online periodically throughout the year. Several events for the pairs to interact in person are also provided. Mentors and mentees can make arrangements to connect on their own at any time.
“We provide training for our mentors and help guide the conversation topics. One is required while the rest are optional. The students and mentors determine what is needed most,” says Rife. “Mentoring is a lot easier than many people think. People often conjure up the idea of investing huge amounts time, but that’s not necessarily true.
“It’s amazing how effective mentors are. Often they don’t realize how much they do and how much they help. Sometimes a student will rate a mentor as ‘extremely effective,’ and the mentor only rates his or her effectiveness as ‘moderate.’ Sometimes mentors will never know all the good they do — mentoring is measured in many ways.”
College Now’s mission is to increase postsecondary educational attainment in Greater Cleveland. New mentor applications will be accepted until April 1. Applications may be filed through the organization’s website,collegenowgc.org/become-a-member. Questions can be directed to Rife at 216-635-0163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.