Monday, June 14, 2010
The United Way of Allegheny County is looking to greatly expand its 6th grade mentoring program. Last year the program was able to pair up mentors with 225 Pittsburgh Public School students. United Way Director of Community Initiatives and Partnerships Wendy Etheridge Smith says they plan to keep the current mentors with their students for the next two years so they are looking for a whole new crop of volunteers. The mentors must commit 45 minutes a week to the program and 45 minutes a month over the summer vacation. Smith says the volunteers need to have a flexible daytime schedule because the mentors meet during lunch at some schools and immediately after class in other schools. However, she says the mentors don’t need any special skills. The school district provides materials that are aimed at educating the students on careers, post high school options, the behaviors associated with accessing those options and the possibility of taping into the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program. Smith says they hope to attract even more mentors this year than last. There are about 1,900 6th graders in the district and Smith says many who want to be in the program are never matched with a mentor. A group at the University of Pittsburgh is studying the success of the program. That study is due July 31st. Smith says anecdotally she knows the program is working, “Students who were not turned on by anything in school suddenly are getting more interested in their school work, students who were not attending regularly [were] making sure to be in school on days when their mentoring was taking place.” Smith says her mentee was able to improve his testing numbers by a whole level. Mentors can apply online at the program’s website.