Leverage Support from Existing Programming

Most districts and schools do not have the financial resources to heavily invest in new programming. The good news is that while the success mentors program requires a modest investment of time and energy from school and district staff, it does not necessitate additional funding. While some districts may be able to identify new resources, including volunteers, from the school, neighborhood, or the business community, much can be accomplished by leveraging existing efforts to fulfill the needs of the program.

The most critical component of an elementary success mentors program is the personnel. In many cases, success mentors can be entirely run on a voluntary basis, with everyone from the district captain, site coordinator and individual success mentors incorporating responsibility for the program as an additional duty of their existing role. While a greater investment of time for the district captain and site coordinator is needed during the planning and launch phases, it should decrease as the program moves into maintenance mode.

Funding may also be needed to promote attendance and celebrate success. These can be simple messages and incentives that are built into strategies that the district already uses to reach students and their families.

Districts are encouraged to consider the following questions and opportunities when deciding whether and how to allocate resources to success mentors:

  • How many students is the district attempting to target through success mentors? Is there sufficient school staff willing to serve as success mentors to reach the targeted students, or are external volunteers needed?

  • What, if any, are the union implications of additional duties for district and school staff? For example, will school staff require an annual stipend to participate in the program? Can success mentors be built into existing district or school-wide efforts such as PBIS or RTI?

  • What existing initiatives, programs or contracts can be leveraged in service of the success mentors program? For example, in New York City, the district amended contracts with social service providers to include mentoring. A number of districts have leveraged AmeriCorps funding and volunteers.

  • How involved is the school community in school initiatives? Is it realistic to expect families and community members to volunteer as success mentors?

  • Can the school piggyback on existing fundraising strategies to raise money to support the program?

  • What messages and incentives are effective in reaching your school communities? Incentives don’t need to be costly. Simple rewards—recognition from peers and the school through certificates or assemblies, extra recess time, homework passes or even dancing in the hallways—go a long way toward motivating students. Ask students what they consider to be a meaningful incentive.
  • Does your district have other creative ways to think about supporting success mentors at little to no cost? Submit your ideas to Sue Fothergill at Sue@attendanceworks.org so we can share your successes with others!