Reach Out! 12/98 Progress Report: II. Traditional Report

Our original proposal identified these goals:

II. A. Expand established programs

1. Tutoring

Progress. We no longer call this tutoring; to indicate the one-on-one, long-term nature of the relationships we promote, we use the terms tutor/mentor or mentor, instead. From fall 1997 through fall 1998, we placed 224 UM mentors with children or teens in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti for at least a semester each. True to our mission of matching existing campus groups with opportunities for outreach, these volunteers came from at least 16 identified organizations: Abeng, Alpha Chi Sigma, Alpha Kappa Psi, Alpha Phi Omega, Ambatana Multicultural Council, Black Student Monthly, Black Student Network, Caribbean People’s Association, Circle K, Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS), Eta Kappa Nu, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Phi Sigma Pi, PreMed Club, Society of Women Engineers, and Tau Beta Pi. (Our science club volunteers came from these groups plus the Golden Key Honor Society and the Black PreMed Association.) We recruited through flyers, bus placards, the Michigan Daily, mass meetings, organizational meetings, Festifall and WinterFest tables, group e-mail, Web sites, and word of mouth.

Pioneer High School has become a true stakeholder in our mentoring program there, as evidenced by their joint support of our adult on-site coordinator, Doris Calvert, and their provision of a small office for her. Announcement of mentor availability and dissemination of forms at the fall open house exponentially increased demand for mentors. Anecdotal reports indicate that many teachers who once viewed mentors as a threat or an implied criticism of their teaching ability now welcome them as partners in a common effort to help more teens succeed academically. Only anecdotal reports can communicate the profound changes in attitudes and procedures we see being wrought by mentoring. A program that we originally resisted on the grounds that it helped individuals but did not promote systemic change has turned out to do both.

As an example, a fall 1998 mentor has worked with a Pioneer student who barely passed a remedial math course last year and was flunking algebra this year. As the mentee's needs became clear, the mentor began meeting with him three times a week instead of just once (now that 's a stakeholder!); however, his deficits in basic math knowledge are too great for even this effort to conquer. Traditional methods call for him to continue in second-semester algebra and flunk that, too, before he can repeat the first semester in summer school or next fall. Recognizing that he will be wasting his time in a second semester of algebra when he could not handle the first, this young man's mentor is arranging to personally teach him remedial math—for community credit—during second semester. There is no guarantee that this will work, but how wonderful that it is being tried! What an example this mentor is setting for school staff on how not to give up on someone and how to bend schedules to suit individuals. Why can't  first-semester algebra be offered during second semester, for example? Changing the prevailing ethos from "If you can't make it, you don't belong in my class" to "Why aren't you making it in my class?" is nothing short of revolutionary. This has not been accomplished—yet—but that nagging question has at least been planted in some minds. A large and impersonal system is being forced to confront its effects on and failures with individuals.

Our elementary mentoring program continued at Chapelle School in Ypsilanti, where many of the same volunteers stayed with the program. Thirteen of the 14 mentors are NSBE members, including the coordinator, Cherita Hunter. One reason the program is working better this year is the principal's requirement that the Chapelle tutees' teachers stay after school during the mentoring period. This availability has made a big difference in the communication process among students, mentors, teachers, and parents, and in the integration of the mentoring program into the life of the school.

Barriers and Challenges. While experience and more people—especially our parent coordinator at Pioneer High School—greatly improved delivery of services, we still had about 60 high school students requesting mentors that we were unable to match. This is quite a switch for us, as our former problem had been too many volunteers and too little time and too few coordinators to get them matched. Whereas we were unable to match some 88 volunteers in 1996–97, only four went unmatched in fall 1998. Our programs are developing a higher profile and a track record, which, in turn, increases demand for them. An office provided by Pioneer and a computer donated by CUOS for our on-site coordination should help us to better meet demand in the future. Our campus coordinator, Karyl Shand, with assistance from work-study Rachel Keefer, has ideas about how to improve recruitment efforts and to speed up the matching process.

The Chapelle Elementary mentoring program has had other problems. We were disappointed that the Minority Engineering Program Office did not support the NSBE coordinator, who continues to work as a volunteer. Cherita is the only volunteer we have ever had who put in such a substantial and sustained number of hours, but we feel she is being taken advantage of. Another problem has been transportation, since it would take a transfer and an inordinate amount of time to reach Chapelle by AATA buses. Volunteers carpool now but several have requested reimbursement for the expense—which we cannot provide. Coordination and transportation have been provided, but we do not consider these to be long-term solutions to these problems. We continue to push MEPO for a financial commitment for a coordinator and for van transportation but do not expect a positive response.

Adjustments to Goals, Aims, Procedures. At Pioneer, we may soon have to start some sort of triage for deciding who will be served on a basis other than first-come, first-served. We have mixed feelings within our organization about whether and how to do this. Our goals encompass help for everyone who needs or wants it to succeed in mastering math and science courses. Many of our volunteers were high achievers themselves and do not want to assume that high school students like them will "make it on their own" if we abandon them. They know from personal experience that it is quite common for such students to do very well at memorizing and spitting back facts without truly grasping the concepts behind them. Neither do they want to abandon students who are barely making it in less advanced courses. We tend to get most of our mentees from these two ends of the spectrum and see both types as having legitimate needs and claims on our assistance. Also, our mentors tend to prefer helping one kind of student or another; we want to be able to match so that either preference is satisfied. If mentors don't find the experience rewarding, they won't stay with it and return the next semester. This problem has not yet been resolved. We will continue to wrestle with it, while intensifying recruiting in hopes of eliminating it.

Another unexpected set of resources arose from mentor feedback. Many volunteers wanted explicit help in dealing with their mentees' lack of basic and study skills. Others felt in over their heads when mentees began sharing serious personal problems. We felt it unrealistic to ask them to keep their interactions within a narrow plane once they had established friendships, yet we did not want them to take on responsibilities for which they are not qualified. Our response was to develop a set of on-line resources they can tap: study skills self-help information, subject-matter tutorials, and referrals to local programs and hotlines to which mentees can be directed to deal with substance abuse, eating disorder, suicide, domestic violence, grief, and other issues. Once again, we have found that volunteers and other UM community members have also benefited from these resources.

I. Anecdotal Report
  A. Grace Kim
  B. Alicia Pinderhughes
  C. Debbie McCartney
  D. Marie Tripp, Jim Birnby & Amy Raudenbush, Aarti Raheja
  E. Yamina Acebo, Karyl Shand
  F. Roselle Herrera, John Nees, Fritz Weihe, Andy Rundquist, Reulonda Norman
  G. Cherita Hunter, Faye Booker-Logan
  H. Veronica Cottingham, Doris Calvert
  I. Erika Arias, Rachel Keefer, Srinivas Sridhara
II. Traditional Report
  A. Expand established programs
    1. Tutoring
    2. Wizards for Hands-On Science Activities
    3. Career Exploration
  B. Support for Michigan Mandate and Agenda for Women Goals
  C. Lessons Learned
  D. Next Steps
Appendix A: Volunteer Mentors from Fall 1997 through Fall 1998
Appendix B: Science Club Volunteers from Fall 1997 through Fall 1998
Appendix C: Outreach Sites from Fall 1997 through Fall 1998

Return to Coalition Home Page         Return to Reach Out! Home Page