Last week we talked about mentoring students on a 1:1 basis but it is more than just tutoring. It is about supporting the student as they try to progress in high school. Helping students understand assignments, class expectations and tools for managing school work is much of what a mentor focuses on. But sometimes mentors have to look at the outside issues that keep a student from even facing classroom problems. Our story this week is about some of those mentors.
Oakland High School, through the pandemic and beyond
We have been working with Oakland High School since 2019. While we went completely virtual during the pandemic, most of our mentors are back in the classroom. Our mentors were not matched with students until October but several of our still-virtual mentors were able to continue working with their mentees from last year almost immediately after the beginning of the year.
There are many reasons that students drop out, often a culmination of factors that lead to a disconnect between the student and the school system. Poor school attendance can be both a cause and a symptom of the disconnect. Mentors, whether in class or virtual, may contact their students several times a week to encourage them to come to class and work to complete assignments, but sometimes they go one step further.
Suzanne, a recently retired OUSD special education teacher, and Alvinna (not her real name) have been working together for 3 years. Alvinna is struggling to make up credits not obtained during the pandemic amidst personal issues that make it difficult for her to focus and connect on a regular basis but they talk about behaviors that can make it easier. Her mom has expressed her gratitude towards Suzanne for continuing to be there in her daughter’s life, when teenagers need adult stable presence.
Mia, a University of San Francisco student, had been working virtually with Pastel (not her real name) also since last year. This year, Pastel recognized that social pressures were working against her desire to do better in school and transferred to another Oakland high school. Mia is following her there and will connect with the new teachers as needed to help Pastel get back on track.
Not all mentors are able or want to stay with their students as Suzanne and Mia have, but all mentors bring a desire to help and to share the learning experience with these high school students. Thank you to all of our Oakland High School mentors!
Stay tuned for our story next week on our new project with Oakland Unified School District’s Central Academic Recovery Team. In the meantime, consider volunteering for Oakland Serves or donating to help us continue to provide this service to Oakland students .