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Make a Difference in a Racine Unified Student's Life; Be a Mentor

Mentoring a student takes an hour a week but makes a world of difference in that child's life.

Racine area residents looking to give back to their community may want to consider an opportunity to mentor at-risk youth.

Mentor Kenosha & Racine (Mentor KR) is a collaborative effort by the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha Unified and s and the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention. The program provides mentors for at-risk middle school students.

A Workforce Development Center and UW-Parkside joint study revealed some disturbing statistics about youth in the community that prompted the creation of the program, said David Power, Racine Unified Mentor Coordinator.

The highlights of the study indicated that:

  • Only 20 percent of youth feel that they are valued by adults in the community
  • Only 23 percent of youth have adult role models that exhibit responsible behavior
  • 39 percent of youth can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations
  • Only 24 percent of youth experience positive family communication
  • Only 23 percent of Racine County youth report reading for pleasure

“The goals of Mentor KR are to improve academic achievement of middle school students and decrease the frequency and amount of juvenile crime, gang involvement and truancy,” Power said. “It also helps improve self-esteem of middle school students and provides positive role models and additional support for middle school students.”

Mentors usually meet with students once a week for an hour during their school day. During that time, mentors assist students with homework, set positive goals, play an interesting game, share a hobby or interest and provide a friendly ear, Power said. The commitment is for the academic school year. 

“Mentor KR mentors are people from across the spectrum of community life,” Power said. “We have business people, city and county people, retired people, moms and dads and college students. A mentor is not a teacher or counselor, but rather a caring adult and positive role model who wants to help children build self-esteem, stay in school and stay out of trouble.” 

Mentor KR currently has 23 active matches in Unified middle schools but has opportunities at all middle schools, Power said. Most often, Extended Day Programming (Lighted Schoolhouse) time in the morning and afternoon is used for mentoring.

Students are recommended for participation by social workers, classroom teachers and counselors through an assessment of environmental and personal risk factors, Power said. They are then paired with a mentor who has been screened by Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Think you could make a difference in the life of a Racine Unified student? Apply by clicking on this link:
http://www.uwp.edu/departments/community.partnerships/mentorkr/mkrallies.cfm

Power is a former Racine Unified teacher who has seen the difference positive relationships can have in the lives of kids. He will here on Patch, telling stories about the relationships and success stories that come out of these hours.

Tom December 14, 2011 at 04:53 PM
A program that could only be invented by academics that belong to a school system [RUSD] that has consistently failed to meet its obligation, in the midst of ever increasing funding, to provide an environment and learning experience leading to student academic achievement, as measured by Achievement Test Results WKCE / WAA. Small class sizes, huge funding and a plethora of failed initiatives demonstrate that the longer a child is in RUSD, the further they fall behind the rest of the State.
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) December 14, 2011 at 05:08 PM
So you oppose the mentoring program or you support it? I'm not sure based on your comment. As for the measurement system of taking tests, I have heard kids state flat out that the tests are too long, take too much time and they have to take them too often so after the first couple, they just fill in any answer just to be done. If that's what kids are doing, then we don't have accurate measurement with our current system. Now, I've also heard murmurs of using tests during the sophomore and senior years (I think) that are similar to the ACT to get a better snapshot of how kids are doing across the major academic areas of study and to gauge their college-readiness.
Tom December 14, 2011 at 05:22 PM
Hmmm... you have heard "kids state flat out tests are too long, tests take too much time .... they just fill in any answer" is absurd because it is not supported by any data in any year in any location within the State of Wisconsin on any Statewide testing per https://apps2.dpi.wi.gov/sdpr/spr.action
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) December 14, 2011 at 05:26 PM
@Tom - you didn't answer my question about the mentoring program. I understand testing as a gauge for learning success is an important topic, but I shouldn't have gone there since this story is about mentoring. Let's stick to that for this piece.
David Power December 14, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Mentor Kenosha & Racine is not about test scores. The issues at stake here are NATIONAL in importance. The purpose is to provide positive role models for children who face some very real challenges. The grant that supports this outreach to at-risk children is provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and is fully supported by both Kenosha and Racine Unified School Districts, municipal and county governments of Racine and Kenosha, and the business communities. Rather than criticize the work of our volunteers who are working to improve our community, try getting involved. I would be happy to speak with Tom, or anyone else about what Mentor Kenosha & Racine does to improve the lives of our students.
Tom December 14, 2011 at 05:43 PM
History would clearly suggest that the mentoring at RUSD will be as successful as all other initiatives RUSD has undertaken in recent years, as documented in the Statewide testing per https://apps2.dpi.wi.gov/sdpr/spr.action Would look forward to read an article that RUSD has decided obtain a mentor for itself in how to deploy a successful educational experience for its students, or an article that RUSD has finally waved a white flag of surrender and is going to break itself up for the better educational outcome of the children it formerly served. I believe that my reply is now on the point you requested.
Tom December 14, 2011 at 05:53 PM
I have not, repeat I HAVE NOT criticized the work of any volunteers in my post. Apparently, RUSD plays no critical role in providing an environment that seeks to seeks to" "improve academic achievement of middle school students and decrease the frequency and amount of juvenile crime, gang involvement and truancy". Kudos to the volunteer network for their work to intervene and attempt to arrest the continued disappointing effort and results of RUSD to participate in a "measurable" way on the aforementioned goals.
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) December 14, 2011 at 05:55 PM
@David raises a good point. We are quick to criticize, but what are we doing to get involved and help solve problems? There are issues in RUSD, of course we know that, but there are solutions and ways to help kids succeed, to bring about the change we MUST have in order to produce a successful future for our area, our state, and our nation. I would argue that kids can get a good, even great, education in Racine Unified, but that would mean having adults in students' lives who give them high expectations, expect results, encourage them, and give support. If they don't get it at home or don't get enough of it at home, then it's up to the rest of us to show up for other people's kids because like it or not, they're here and they're no less valuable than any other kid. It's either get them in school and teach them how to succeed that way or build more jails and make more space in the cemetery.
David Power December 14, 2011 at 07:26 PM
FYI Tom, Mentor Kenosha & Racine certifies mentoring programs at John Paul 23 and is in the process of certifying mentoring programs in voucher schools in Racine and Kenosha. Mentoring young people is about helping our society as a whole and is a nationwide effort supported by many national corporations, national,state, and local governments. You may have issues with RUSD, but our goals are much broader than one school district. What Mentor Kenosha & Racine works to achieve has nothing to do with your issues with RUSD. There are many paths to the top of the mountain; this is simply another way up. Further, Mentor Kenosha & Racine has been tracking performance of those student whith whom we work as part of the requirements of the OJJDP grant. See the next comment.
David Power December 14, 2011 at 07:27 PM
Our early data: • Of 98 matched mentors, 57% are still actively mentoring, a very high retention rate in the mentoring world. RUSD mentors were retained at a 60% rate. • Of the 98 matches, 41 were in RUSD middle schools—19 have continued in a second year. • Females make up 56% of the mentees, males 44% • Of the students with pre and mid or post-program data, 43% increased attendance. • Of the students with pre and mid or post-program data, 56% increased their GPA. • On average, students who improved their GPA did so by 69% • 95% of students did not offend or re-offend since starting the program. These statistics seem to indicate that Mentor KR mentoring initiative is working. While we cannot claim causality, there appears to be a correlation with the improvements among students involved in mentoring.

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