The need for tutors and academic mentors for students who are not succeeding in school has become a national issue, exacerbated by the pandemic*. Oakland Serves has been providing mentors to Oakland public high school students at risk of dropping out, or failing to progress to graduation, since 2018. In recognition of National Mentoring Month and our mentors, we are posting weekly stories about the importance of school-based mentoring, our mentoring programs and our mentors throughout the month.
Week 1: 1:1 Mentoring at Dewey High School
Week 2: 1:1 Mentoring at Oakland High School
Week 3: The Central Academic Recovery team at OUSD and classroom mentoring at Castlemont High School
Week 4: The importance of supporting English learners, or Newcomers
Week 5: The need for mentors continues
We start with our mentors at Dewey Academy….
Dewey Academy, a continuation high school
This is our first year working with Dewey and since it can take a while to work with school personnel the first time and for them to identify students that can use our assistance, mentors weren’t matched with Dewey students until mid-November. However we were able to provide the requested mentors for this trial run.
Dewey Academy is one of Oakland’s continuation high schools. As their website states, “As in most continuation high schools, our population is very transient; at any given time, about 25% of our students are newly enrolled. All students are behind on credits. As of the writing of this report, our ethnic population is as follows: 40% African American, 44% Latino, 7.7% Asian, 1.5% Pacific Islander, and 2.1% Multi-racial. Ninety-two percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch while 23% are English Language Learners.”
Many of our mentors are retirees who didn’t have the time to volunteer while they were working. One of our Dewey mentors, Nancy, is a retired physician’s assistant. As she put it when she applied to Oakland Serves “I worked with so many different people when I was working and I miss working with people who are different than me. I like the diversity in Oakland and would like to work in a public school setting.”
Nancy was matched with Robert (not his real name) who she meets with weekly in a class setting. He is a 12th grader whose first language is Spanish and struggles with written English. She is helping him understand and complete written assignments as well working with him on work applications.
We could not agree more with Nancy’s approach to her mentoring, as she says “I enjoy the privilege of being in a school setting and helping a teenager who is struggling with writing or reading.”
Thank you Nancy and the rest of the Dewey mentoring team for the time you spend mentoring our high school students!
Stay tuned for our next story and consider volunteering for Oakland Serves or donating to help us continue to provide this service to Oakland students.
*See for example “What California needs for Christmas: 5.9 million tutors”, San Francisco Chronicle, December 4, 2022.