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The college and career mentoring program pairs students with community volunteers

PHOTO COURTESY OF CROOK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
 - Collin Hester came to Crook County High School at the start of this school year as the ASPIRE – College Readiness Coordinator. He is seeking volunteers to mentor CCHS students.

Crook County High School students are aspiring to new heights, thanks to a statewide mentoring program that helps students access education and training beyond high school.

But more mentors are needed in order to reach more students.

"There's a big need here at the school. With approximately 700 students, we have roughly 45 of those matched with a mentor, and I think there's a large number of students that want to have a mentor," said CCHS ASPIRE – College Readiness Coordinator Collin Hester. "I'd like to reach a greater number of students because I think it's very beneficial to help them plan next steps after high school."

ASPIRE stands for Access to Student Programs in Reach of Everyone. The program is an entity of the Office of Student Access and Completion, which is based in Eugene.

ASPIRE pairs students with adult volunteer mentors, who provide one-on-one support to help students discover and follow the path that is right for them beyond high school, whether it's to pursue college, vocational school, military service, employment, or other postsecondary opportunities.

Mentors assist with college and career searches, college and trade school applications, financial aid, scholarships, and other aspects to help students reach their personal and professional goals.

Currently, Hester and 10 volunteers mentor the nearly 45 CCHS students in the program.

"Not every student wants or needs to be paired up with a mentor, but it would be nice to get the numbers higher than 45," Hester said, noting that in order to do that, he needs to recruit more volunteer mentors.

"For a lot of students, there's a great need to have a mentor in their life because some students don't really know what they want to do beyond high school, and to have an adult meet with them on a regular basis helps them explore options," he said.

Those interested in becoming an ASPIRE mentor would have a quick interview with Hester. They would fill out an application, have a background check, complete one-on-one training with Hester, and watch three online training videos.

He would prefer that mentors commit to one academic school year. The time commitment varies, depending on the students' needs. Mentors may meet with the students anywhere from one or two times a month to once a week.

Students typically meet with their mentors in the Future Center, which is inside the school library, on school days.

"When students express interest in wanting to be paired up with a mentor, I have them fill out some paperwork that lets us know what they're looking to get out of ASPIRE," Hester explained. "It also gives me a chance to figure out their hobbies, their skills, some background information so I can use that information to try to pair them up with a mentor that I feel would be able to relate best, based on his or her experience."

He pointed out that mentors don't have to have a college education, they just need to be at least 18 years old and willing to learn how to help students figure out a path that is best for them after high school.

Mentors could be anyone from a student who just recently graduated from CCHS to a retiree.

"It doesn't have to be a professional. We're wide open to mentors with varying backgrounds, skills and experiences," Hester said. "The most important thing is that they have a passion to work with students and help them identify and reach their educational and career goals."

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