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Volunteer Mentoring by Oakland Serves Has Begun


A publication of Oakland Serves Vol. 2 Issue 2

Volunteer Mentoring by Oakland Serves Has Begun This issue of The Graduation Advocate, the newsletter of Oakland Serves, is all about good news: we are now mentoring at Skyline High School and about to begin at McClymonds High School.

This means we can accept more mentors now and will definitely need more in the fall, when we plan to continue at both schools. If you or someone you know is interested in this volunteer opportunity, write now to or fill out our volunteer form at And if you do not already have one, start the process getting a background clearance at You will be asked to commit to 3 hours per week, during the school day (see below for more details).

How we have started at Skyline High School

Bruce Calderon, one of our most dedicated mentors, is now mentoring two young men at Skyline in the Latino Boys and Men program run by Arturo Aguayo. Weekly help with school work and plenty of encouragement will help these young men stay the course and graduate with their classmates. All going well (and first reports are very positive) they will also be eligible for paid part time internships in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Youth Development. This is just the beginning at Skyline. We plan to add other mentors in this program, and also in other classrooms and programs. We will meet this month with Tiffannie Jenkins, the Coordinator of the Services Team at Skyline to discuss further placements in the fall. Our thanks also to Principals Nancy Bloom and Christina Macalino for their approval and support.

How we are starting at McClymonds High School

Dr. Allie Whitehurst is the Administrator in charge of outside placements at McClymonds. She is presently setting up placements for 8 to 10 of our mentors with students who need extra tutoring to pass math, science, and/or English courses required for graduation. Her plan is also designed to bring help to students who need it most so they will be able to pass the courses that will enable them to graduate with their classmates. Her approach is very direct and on target: each mentor will work with a student needing help in a particular class required for graduation and do so by going directly to that class, getting acquainted with the teacher and assignments as well as the student, and then begin mentoring the student separately from the class one day per week. Class time will usually be 90 minutes and an additional 90 minutes can be arranged directly with the student, also within or immediately following the school day. Our thanks also to Colleen Piper, Leah Jensen, and Principal Jarod Scott.

How These Placements Fits the Mission of Oakland Serves

As loyal readers of this newsletter know well by now, our mission is to bring help to high school students who need it most. We do not ask how deserving they are, we ask if they are at risk of failing to graduate and seem likely to benefit from one on one mentoring by a well-qualified and well trained mentor. We do not insist on doing things exactly "our way" - we have a well designed program (see our "about" page at, but we are determined to work closely with teachers and administrators at the school, adapting our program's logistics as needed so long as our basic mission is being met. There is no charge to the school for our services. We are all volunteers, and so are our mentors. The money we raise goes only to the students for internships, to a part time administrative assistant, and to (very minor) incidental expenses.

Meet Our Mentors

Our mentors are diverse, strong, and committed. Let us introduce you to four of them, just to give you an idea (we will continue this feature in our next newsletter):

Bruce Calderon is an active member of the Oakland Serves Team, designing flyers, seeking new supporters, and making personal contacts at Skyline and McClymonds to build interest in the program. He has held multiple internships in public service while a student at San Francisco State University and is now applying to Bay Area law schools. Bruce wants to be a Public Defender. He has begun mentoring at Skyline and is earning a very positive response there: "He was great engaging with the youth and assisting them with school work," says program leader Arturo Aguayo, "He will further provide professional development and help them transition into community college."

Maya Friedman is working on a dissertation on how to maintain evolutionary diversity in salmon fisheries. She worked with 5th graders from lower socioeconomic backgrounds for three years and with college undergrads at UC Santa Cruz. Now she wants to try her hand at working with high school students. She is ready to tutor in math, science, or reading. She used to live in the McClymonds neighborhood and she and her husband have many friends in Oakland. Maya says, "teaching is my passion."

Charlotte Hennessy joined Vista in Chicago after getting her BA in political science from UC Berkeley, then co-owned and operated a restaurant in Oakland for 10 years, and then joined the National Park Service, leading tours at Fort Mason and building a strong connection to the Presidio Historical Association. She has worked with Writers Coach and with the Experience Corps. She wants to tutor in reading, writing, and entrepreneurship. Charlotte says, "I have a sincere desire to help students stay in school." She has signed up for McClymonds, and is helping with mentor recruitment on line.

Aviroop Sen has been a member of the Oakland Serves Team for two years, while studying statistics at UC Berkeley. He provides the data graphics for this newsletter, posts our flyers wherever he can, and is pleased that now the time has come to mentor as well. He tutored Latino students in San Mateo from grades K-12 while he was in high school. Avi wants to "help students understand how to study and work out what their goals should be." He believes every student has the right to education at all levels: "It is what makes the difference."

So What Does it Take to Mentor with Oakland Serves

First things first:

  • Availability. You are able to arrange up to 3 hours per week for mentoring during the school day (normally 8:30 to 3:30). Minimum time: 90 minutes.

  • Dependability. When you make a commitment you keep it, week after week, for 20 to 30 weeks (holidays excepted, illness excused).

  • Knowledge. You are able to help with high school math, science, and/or English assignments.

  • Clearance. If you do not already have a background clearance to work with youth, you are willing to get one. We have a partner organization for this, Be A Mentor A TB test and fingerprinting are required. If you don't have these, Be A Mentor and our own volunteer coordinator stand by to help as needed.

The crucial intangibles:

  • Empathy. You are able to listen, learn, and change your own perspectives and behavior if needed. You have been in similar circumstances yourself or you can see how the mentee's environment is affecting his performance at school. You can make friends with people pretty easily. You are willing to share your own relevant experience, but you don't need to talk a lot about yourself - you understand everyone is different. You are patient and non-judgmental. You keep your cool. You build trust.

  • Motivation. What motivates you? Do you want to obtain valuable experience and build your resume? Need an internship for school credit? Want to do something that helps make the world a better place? Feel the need to give back, having received crucial support at some time, in some way, on your own path forward? All honorable motives are good, but you need to know why you are doing this. This must be something you really want to do.

Also helpful:

  • Education. Some college - this can be from community college to graduate studies.

  • Experience. Some work with youth - this can be from parenting to coaching to other mentoring experiences. (We provide special trainings for mentoring students at risk of dropping out.)

Does this sound like you?

  • Pick up the phone and call (510) 849-1245 or go online at and apply via the Volunteer page.

You can also pass this on to others.

What Else Could You Do?

Internships You could provide a paid internship for a student in our program or persuade someone else to do so. Many business owners and leaders of organizations and institutions have shown an eagerness to help improve educational results in Oakland and this is a way to do so. Young persons at risk of dropping out need to see that staying in school, graduating, and finding a good job is possible for them. A paid internship offering useful work and a respectable level of pay, accompanied by supervision and some mentoring, can work wonders. The pay can mean a great deal to the student's well-being and self-respect, qualities strongly associated with staying in school. It is also a chance to teach successful work place attitudes and behaviors, give job interviewing tips, and teach simple but useful job skills relevant to the demands of contemporary employment. If interested, write to saying what you have in mind and best way and times to reach you.

Join the Oakland Serves Team If you cannot mentor and cannot provide an internship, but do have some free time, join the Oakland Serves Team. We need help with publicity (website, flyers, news releases), with fund raising (research, providing requested data in grant applications, finding new promising sources), and with mentor recruitment. Occasional committee meetings (never more than once a month) and our Board of Directors meeting (third Saturday of every month) give you a chance to meet others dedicated to making this project work. Call or write to Kay Lawson, (510) 849-1245,

Tax-Deductible Donation Go to our website,, and press the Donate button or send a check to our Post Office Box. The money will go mostly to the students to pay for their part time work stipends, some to defray costs of our part time office assistant, and a little bit for miscellaneous expenses. But student stipends come first: $15.00 will cover 1 hour of part time work, $75 will cover 1 day, $375 will cover 5 weeks. It all adds up.

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