Mentors needed for local high schoolers
The Madras High School Future Center coordinator is looking for community members to mentor students through their junior and senior years with a focus on planning for life after high school.
"Although this is my first year in this role of college and career coordinator at MHS, the mentor program has, by all accounts, had a positive impact on students through graduation and beyond," said Future Center Coordinator Samantha Loza. "My personal feeling is that students who have positive support and advocacy are more successful in achieving their goals, whether they are planning on attending college, heading into the workforce, pursuing a trade or joining the military."
Loza is currently seeking volunteers to mentor the class of 2022. There are 160 students in the class, and she has only seven mentors signed up. For a successful mentoring program, she would like to recruit another dozen or so volunteers.
She said the time commitment is relatively small with a minimum of two meetings with each student during the second half of their junior year, and one or two check-ins/meetings during their senior year. Meetings are currently held in a virtual environment, which Loza monitors. To ensure continuity for the students, volunteers must commit to two years with the program. Most mentors work with seven to 10 students.
After relevant training, mentors will be prepared to direct, guide and assist students with financial aid, scholarship, internship, college and career searches as well as point students to Future Center resources. Mentors will be able to assist students with college admission, national testing information, interest profiling, employability skills and military information.
"Traditionally, many of our mentors have tended to be educators and retirees," Loza said.
However, with the COVID shutdowns, many retiree mentors have left the program due to health concerns or struggles with the technology necessary to successfully mentor in a virtual environment.
"I would love to see more community leaders participate in mentoring, particularly entrepreneurs, business owners and law enforcement," Loza said, adding that criminal justice and related fields were the number one occupation of interest according to a survey of the class of 2021.
She also invites parents of current and past MHS students who have perhaps been through the post-secondary planning process with their own kids.
"The most important skill in a mentor is the ability to listen and empathize. I don't want anyone to feel like they must be an expert on college admissions or financial aid," Loza said.
While those things will come up, training is provided, and Loza said she is always available as a resource.
"I have so much gratitude for the mentors who have stuck it out this year and who are working so hard to forge connections with our students," she said. "So far, it's been a year filled with trial and error, and our volunteers have demonstrated a superior flexibility and commitment to the Future Center programming."
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