1998-99 CUOS K-12 Education Outreach Program Progress Report
<- Previous Section Table of Contents Next Section ->

II. Mentoring Programs

A. Program Description and Goals

All of our programs, it seems, gradually evolve into mentorships. This should not surprise us, since we preach the importance of rebuilding learning communities in order to reach our more specific goals of attracting children to and supporting them in the study of math and science. It is a simple matter of hierarchy of needs: children and teens need connection, care, and support in all areas before they can be free to develop their academic potential and technical capabilities.

While our tutor-mentoring programs certainly provide academic support, they also increasingly focus on the whole person—on personal needs, interests, skills (social, study, organizational, subject-oriented), and hopes for the future. This kind of coaching through life—true mentoring—can only occur within a continuing relationship of mutual trust and respect. Where we have not yet achieved that ideal, we are working toward it!

B. Program Implementation at Chapelle Elementary School

Cherita Hunter, of UM's National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapter, organized the recruitment and carpooling of 12 NSBE volunteers and an unaffiliated UM undergraduate to visit Chapelle Elementary School in Ypsilanti for weekly, after-school tutor/mentoring of fourteen first and second graders. They helped with homework, played games, and read with their charges. At the principal's suggestion, the children's teacher was available for questions during these sessions about assignments and such, which all participants found to be very helpful.

We are disappointed that the program seemed more one of tutoring than of mentoring but will continue to pursue improvements. Transportation to this neighboring town can be a problem, but it does not seem an insurmountable one; car pools have worked adequately.

Plans for Next Year

The program at Chapelle is also evolving. Principal Tulani Smith has long been associated with the CCoG Opportunity Center; she and Sharine Buddin from George Elementary and Beverly Tyler (who teaches at Adams School in Ypsilanti), share the long friendship and trust requisite to a learning community. They also share overlapping custody of children at the three schools and the Opportunity Center. They have been making mutual plans about how to better serve all those children, with no jealousy over one another's programs. They are a model of how informal communication and cooperation can synergistically combine to improve children's lives.

Tulani is actively encouraging her school's children to attend the CCoG Opportunity Center. She has two mothers who volunteer and love science; we will share our resources and the concept of the Wizards program with them.

C. Program Implementation at Pioneer High School

It is hard to believe that we have just finished a third year at Pioneer: so much has happened and the program has become so established that it seems as if we've been there much longer. During the 1998-99 school year, 65 mentees, including our first hearing-impaired student, were served by 54 mentors. There were at least three changes in the program this year:

Evidence of Systemic Change

Problems at Pioneer High School

Plans for Next Year

Karyl wants to bring our Pioneer mentoring program to what she calls "Phase 3: intentional mentoring." This calls for stronger relationships, more commitment, and broader services to teens. Our volunteer recruiting will emphasize becoming true stakeholders; we will be suggesting a commitment of more than an hour per week next year, since nearly all evaluation respondents felt more time was needed. Also, for the second year, we will solicit new mentees only in the fall, to allow for longer-term relationships. We find that recruiting through school personnel, rather than at the fall open house, gets us fewer mentees but more of the teens we want to serve: those who really need help rather than the high-achieving students. Accordingly, we expect to work with Student Success Specialist Tanya Padgett, Student Support Services Coordinator Dee Booker, and coaches to recruit mentees.

Finally, we plan to orient mentors to a specific, suggested structure for their meetings, including these elements: (1) a feelings check at the beginning of each session; (2) a career exploration day once a month; (3) an emphasis on responsibility and accountability; (4) the establishment of free email accounts for mentees, via the Web and using library computers, to facilitate more communication among mentors, mentees, and coordinators; and (5) a learning styles inventory at the first meeting.

D. Program Implementation at The Neutral Zone

This is an Ann Arbor area teen club formed by teens, parents, and other concerned community members and organizations. It provides a safe place for young people to gather, to have various kinds of fun, and to learn things they need to know. We collaborated with the Zone in three arenas—the creation of a Web site, the launching of an academic mentoring program, and some guidance in career exploration.

The Web site still resides on our server, at http://www.eecs.umich.edu/mathscience/nzone/home.html, but should be moved to another server and taken over by the teens themselves soon. They want very much to publicize all of their "garage bands" and other activities; we can't possibly keep up with this. Our boost got them started but now we will ease out of this area. Similarly, we provided training, written materials, and a database system for tracking tutor/mentoring of teens by community volunteers. We have learned a lot over the past few years about how to make this work and were happy to provide guidance. Finally, we brought materials to a Career Night at the center, sharing how teens can use our Web-based resources to explore their own strengths and interests and the career fields that would suit them. In all three cases, the major organizing was done by Neutral Zone folks, with CUOS outreach people serving in a consultant role. In this way, we could reach more teens and they could do more, more quickly, by building upon our experience. This is a true collaboration of partners each bringing their specialized expertise. Our program is shifting more and more to this kind of "consultant" model.

The volunteer mentors were adults recruited by word of mouth, undergraduates who could not meet at our late-afternoon times at Pioneer High, and young adults who read about the center and its programs in the local newspaper. They did not require much training, just reassurance. For example, one man was worried and put off by the surface persona of teens ("the cynicism and the cursing") but delighted to find what they are really like below that tough and cool exterior—very like himself but younger and less sure of themselves. "I love this a lot!" he said, letting us know how important and worthwhile he considered it to work with two students and, intermittently, two of their friends. The mentors decided, after discussion during their training session, that all they really needed to focus on was "What are they trying to learn?" and "Why do they need my help?" Mentors soon discovered that their teens lack the concrete experience to help them understand concepts. After drawing and using manipulatives to work on fractions, one mentee saw the light: "Oh, this is like dividing!" This is an example of the kind of basic knowledge gaps that are impairing teens' performance in high school; they need a patient soul to guide them through what they should have learned years earlier. This certainly alleviated the concern of some mentors about whether they'd be able to handle the subject matter. All of the mentees did improve their grades during the year.

While our planning anticipated problems with commitment from the teens, and we emphasized their responsibility to show up when volunteers were coming to help them, it turned out not to be a problem; they rose to meet that expectation. Jeannine LaSovage also helped the mentors organize to run small study groups during the summer, when a demand for that was expressed by teens attending summer school.

Plans for Next Year

In the fall of 1999 we expect to provide mentor training sessions, data entry and reports generated from the databases we maintain for them, and ongoing support such as sharing new methods, on-line resources, and strategies for teaching things like study skills. Once the center achieves stability in administration (it has had three directors in two years), we expect the mentoring program to be taken over by Neutral Zone employees and volunteers.

E. Program Implementation within the HOPE Program

The Health Occupations Partners in Education (HOPE) Program is a five-year, grant-funded educational program to support middle and high school students in the Ypsilanti Public Schools with the goal of substantially increasing the number of African American, Latino and Native American students interested in and academically prepared for pursuing careers in the health professions. It is part of the national Health Professions Partnership Initiative, with matching funds provided by the local partner schools at the University of Michigan and from Parke-Davis Warner Lambert. An essential element of the program is the pairing of secondary students with adult mentors.

We collaborated in the early implementation phase by spending a lot of discussion time with the program director, Linda Cunningham, by creating and hosting a Web site for the program, at http://www.eecs.umich.edu/mathscience/HOPE/home.html, and by helping to recruit potential mentors and career presenters in health-related fields. We were so taken with this program's potential that two CUOS outreach staff members, Joyce Sutton and Faye Booker-Logan, moved over to the Medical School to work for the HOPE program instead of or in addition to CUOS.

We no longer have any direct connection with the program but feel that it is an example of how, acting in a consultant capacity, we can share our expertise with others who share our goals.

F. Program Implementation within the Serendipity Reading Clubs

This is another example of a "limited partnership" collaboration. Mike Conboy, a retired professional, took it upon himself to organize community-based reading instruction for underachieving minority children in Ann Arbor Public Schools. He now has reading clubs in each of the five public housing sites in the city, sponsored by the Community Academic Success Team. The Serendipity Reading Clubs proceed from the assumptions that (1) reading ability at the third-grade level is the key to academic success, economic security, and lifelong learning, and (2) one mentor can help a child to overcome academic and social difficulty with a single year of reading training. Our only contribution to the Clubs' success has been to create and host a Web site for them, which assists in recruiting the parents, retirees, and other community members willing to make such a commitment.

Children from these clubs were chosen by Mike to attend the free summer day camp created and run by two of our Reach Out! women (see section G just below). In the coming year we plan to branch out into organizing science clubs at the same sites (see the end of section I of this report). We consider this overlapping of programs to be a wonderful example of community and stakeholder development, as it brings together retirees, public housing managers, parents, and UM students.

G. Program Implementation in Camp Discovery

This summer day camp is a new program for us, conceived of, planned for, and completely run by Reach Out! members Aarti Raheja and Debbie McCartney. They raised funds, arranged tours and demonstrations, recruited volunteers among their friends and trained them, solicited food and material donations, and designed and had T-shirts and name badges made. They deliberately chose to work with youngsters from the Serendipity Reading Clubs at Ann Arbor public housing sites, who were picked by coordinator Mike Conboy and chauffeured by Mike and his wife Madelaine—who also personally contacted every parent. A slightly rotating cast of a dozen volunteers—who worked around summer jobs and classes—helped to provide plenty of supervision. For one week in June, a dozen third-graders were treated to seven hours a day of a tremendous variety of enriching experiences. They toured the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and wrote their names in hieroglyphics; went to the UM Marching Band's Revelli Hall and played some percussion instruments; toured Michigan Stadium and met some UM athletes; went canoeing in Gallup Park, watched a demonstration of obedience training with CUOS administrator Linda Owens's show dogs; had a cookout on Island Park, visited the petting zoo at Dominos Farms and discovered where milk comes from; watched and learned from the Juggling Arts Club; toured the Marine Hydrodynamics Lab; hiked through the Nichols Arboretum; climbed one of the UM bell towers and spoke with a carillonist while she performed; toured the Artificial Intelligence Lab; played in Maya Lin's Wave Field; toured Central Campus, the Aerospace Lab, and a wind tunnel; got instruction in swing dancing; checked out a Huron Valley Ambulance close up; played with kites, Frisbees, water balloons, and magnifying glasses; did some crafts and science projects; learned lots of silly camp songs and games; and recorded their experiences in their own memory books and with their own disposable cameras. Two of them even celebrated their ninth birthdays during the week.

There was enough variety for everyone to have a good time. The weather cooperated spectacularly. The children were terrifically well-behaved, even when understandably excited; the volunteers were completely exhausted! But, even before the week was over, the Reach Out! folks were talking about how they really needed to follow up with some outings during the school year with their campers. The relationships formed are the reason we categorize this program as "mentoring." The intent was not to teach specific facts to the children but, rather, to open many windows on the world for them. They do not have the richness of experience to draw upon that upper-middle-class youngsters enjoy. Camp Discovery was a pronounced success at providing them with good times, congenial company, and plenty of new experiences to think, talk, and write about:

We walked thousands of miles around the football stadium—and it was so hot—but I loved it! I've never been inside there. It is so big!

Adria had to stay home today to talk to her college people. She's going to college next month. She said she's excited and a little scared. I would be, too.

We had a picnic today. Rich (and he's going to marry Debbie!) cooked for us.

Dogs need lots of care, you know that? Just like kids. You wouldn't believe what Linda has taught her dogs to do. It's cool.

You know Aarti? She's going to be a doctor. I'm going to go to her. She's nice.

Ann Arbor is so big, I can't believe it. We've been everywhere—and Reulonda said we haven't even seen half of what is around here. Go figure.

Roselle is quiet, but she is smart. She knows lots of stuff, just ask her. Ask her anything. She knows something about anything.

Me, tired? No way! We're going to the Bell Tower and see all over Ann Arbor from up there.

Karyl is so pretty. She might be an astronaut! And she flies planes!

Every child and counselor went places and did things that were new to them. This was by design: if children are to learn to think like scientists, they need plenty of real, physical experiences, along with guidance in observing, predicting, and asking questions about how the world works. Camp served as an informal laboratory for this process. For example, while canoeing, participants had to theorize about why they were going in circles, about exactly what their oars were doing to propel them, about how they could change their technique to improve their control. We could theorize about the reasons for it but, whatever the explanation, these children need to be prompted to ask "Why?" and to actively think about how and why things happen. Whether they become scientists or not, this habit of mind will surely affect their lives for the better, if only because an understanding of cause and effect opens the mind's door to the whole notion of personal power and responsibility. If things happen for predictable reasons and they can alter the terms of an experiment, that means they can also take active steps to control their own lives—rather than living as powerless victims.

Program Evaluation

All counselors gave the following consistent feedback, that they (1) thoroughly enjoyed the overall program; (2) believe we made a difference in the children's lives even though it was just one week; and (3) gained an appreciation for children's intensity, their need to be constantly active, their challenging nature, their sensitivity (i.e., easily having hurt feelings), and their immense need for attention all of the time.

Six counselors shared realizing that they had become overly concerned about the children having a good time. At the last day, all were surprised when several children picked as their "most fun" activities things that they had appeared not to enjoy at the time. Children are not predictable—their faces or words may not express their real feelings. Most rated canoeing and swing dancing as "awesome," for example, when several had been very reluctant participants. We think it is good that there was such a diversity of activities, as all children were exposed to things that met their interests and likes and also to things that weren't high on their list but were on someone else's. Children who celebrated their birthdays during the week loved the fuss made over them, of course.

Mike was surprised that all 12 children came each and every day. Three children consistently arrived at least 15 minutes earlier than they needed to at their pickup spots. The children loved this camp—and their counselors, too. Many had never been at a day camp like this; eight shared that they hoped they could do this next year. Three had other plans for the summer, such as sports camps; the remainder had no plans "anymore." Several of these eight- and nine-year-olds were the oldest in their families and shared that they would be baby-sitting the rest of the summer.

The two directors dealt with typical program planning obstacles and difficulties: the weather, discipline problems, respect and attitude problems, partners who changed their minds about contributions, liability issues, medical care concerns, and general health and safety issues. They developed daily assessment and program evaluation components. Taking on great responsibility, they learned a lot. This camp was also a learning experience for the K-12 Outreach staff, who bit their tongues, stifled their pessimism, and let the Reach Out! team go to follow their ambitious dream. Once again, it was driven home to us just how capable and responsible young adults can be. The changes wrought in them by working with children and by taking on increasing responsibility are so edifying. Their service makes them better people and assets to their community. They now have a relationship with the five public housing sites, the Serendipity Club leaders, and many children and their parents. They are moving to expand our science clubs and mentoring programs at these sites.

Overall we saw how needy these children are—how much they want to do things with adults, spend time with them, hang onto their hands, be touched. Three children shared they were surprised the adults didn't get paid to do this; we think that this was an important difference for all.

Plans for Next Year

Aarti has started medical school and Debbie will graduate from UM next spring, so a second camp is by no means certain to happen, but they did a careful evaluation to help in planning if we do try this again. Their major recommendations:

We learned a great deal from this pilot program that is applicable to others, but the effect on providers may be as important as anything it did for the child participants. These coordinators and volunteers reached new levels of commitment and resolve to better their communities, now and in the future; they obtained a visceral understanding of some of the obstacles faced by children of another economic class; and they gained assurance in their ability to plan and run programs of real responsibility.

<- Previous Section   Table of Contents   Next Section ->
I. Science Clubs III. Career Clubs
  A. Program Description and Goals   A. Owen School
  B. Peace Neighborhood Center   B. Slauson Middle School
  C. North Maple Estates   C. Pioneer High School
  D. George School    
  E. Community Church of God IV. Technology
  F. Owen School   A. Owen School
  G. Lessons Learned from Science Clubs   B. Coalition Web Site
II. Mentoring Programs V. Research Experiences for Teachers
  A. Program Description and Goals   A. Things We Learned
  B. Chapelle School   B. What Comes Next
  C. Pioneer High School    
  D. The Neutral Zone VI. Conclusions and Recommendations
  E. HOPE Program    
  F. Serendipity Reading Clubs VII. Appendix A. Organizational Chart
  G. Camp Discovery   Appendix B. Partners List

Return to Coalition Home Page